July 2010 Archives
Fulham goalie Mark Schawarzer is keen to move to the Emirates if the club can come up with some more money for his transfer. The move will also predicate on whether Mark Hughes can also bring Robert Green over from West Ham.
David James has a new home and it is in the Championship. He will be Bristol City's new custodian after signing a one year contract. He has a home in Exeter and was at the stage where moving to a new club would be mean less time as a family man.
"I've had offers to stay in the Premier League but it is more important that I play football - which I love - for the right club and be a family man," James said. "I had a long conversation with the chairman Steve Lansdown and I liked what he said about the club and his ambition."
Meanwhile, Roberto Mancini is set to offload City's swollen roster and Hughes could possibly be reunited with Roque Santa Cruz, Stephen Ireland, and Craig Bellamy.
El Chicharito came back home to Chivas to a hero's welcome and he suited up in the first half for his former club against his new club, Man Utd. One of the conditions of the transfer deal that brought him to the Premiership was that United would be at hand to inaugurate Chivas's new stadium.
Eight minutes later, he scored a sensational goal to put Chivas one up. This kid is going to be special. He and Wayne Rooney are going to form a formidable partnership that will keep scoring goals.
Chris Smalling, another of Sir Alex's talented prospects scored an equalizer. Chivas went ahead through Adolfo Bautista (his hair dyed platinum blonde) and Hector Reynoso made it a two goal lead before Nani pulled one back late for the final score of 3-2.
French football is not dead. The commentators went delirious with joy as the French team overcame Spain in the U19 Euro Cup. There was an extra intensity in those celebrations, a bit more oomph in those hugs, as the badly battered Gallic pride was restored somewhat by a fine win by the U19 team.
Spain assiduously stuck to its tightly suffocating tiki taka as practiced by its senior counterparts and went up by a goal when Daniel Pacheco played a superb through ball for Rodrigo to finish clinically. France had to withstand a barrage of possession and half chances and wait for the counterattack. From one of them Arsenal starlet Gilles Sunu played a nice one - two with Yannis Tafer to lob the ball past Alex, the Spain goalie.
Chelsea wunderkid, Gael Kakuta having a monstrous campaign, stamped his class by virtually scoring the second goal all by himself. In the 84th minute he burst through taking on two defenders before shooting straight to Alex. But Kakuta showed his wits by collecting his rebound and looking up floated the ball gently to the arriving Alexandre Lacazette who headed the ball home.
The win provides a much needed refutation that the much maligned generation of caillera do not have enough national pride - maybe this next generation of Les Bleus will do their country proud on the world's biggest stage.
When asked about his MLS future in a pre-match interview before the All Stars game, Landon Donovan gave a very non-committal answer which gave the distinct impression that he might be looking elsewhere.
Now, the buzz is that he will leave for Everton before the transfer period closes down by end August.
"I would love to go back to Everton. I love the people there, I love the fans there, but that said I love being in America too, so we're going to take everything into account and see where it ends up."
This runs contrary to Don Garber's thinking for the MLS to deepen its bonds with the US soccer fan, a player like Donovan has to be off limits.
"We need to deepen the connection between the American fan as an MLS fan first and a Premier League fan second," said Garber.
"In order to do that, we need our best American players here. We need somebody like Landon, who has grown up in southern California, who is bi-lingual, almost like Captain America for our national team, somebody who is really inspiring a nation of soccer fans."
Garber is looking at it from the wrong perspective. One needs to define, "Who is an American fan?" This is not one size fits all. The extant of the cultural and ethnic demographic that defines an American fan is wide and varied.
This is soccer, the world's game after all- many Hispanic fans watched Cuauhtemoc Blanco because he is Mexican but they could easily give Donovan a pass. On the other hand, Thierry Henry is going to attract a wide spectrum of fans because he is a global superstar.
Garber is giving us a prescription for " a So Cal, bi-lingual, Captain America type figure" conveniently forgetting that for soccer to grow we have to go beyond these labels- first, for many these are bits of cultural flotsam and jetsam and secondly, many fans have other icons in mind when they come to watch club soccer.
That is because soccer can't be transported back 50 years to a Knute Rockne, all American hero era. The soccer heroes of today are an amalgam of the present demographic realities of this country. Local associations make much more difference when we talk about strengthening bonds between fans and their club. We need more partisans, more rivalries.
Garber's statements are actually counterproductive because it suggests a familiar trap, the "one player makes the league" type of thinking which defined the David Beckham signing. We can't weigh players down with these unrealistic expectations.
A growing league builds its connection on a two way traffic: On its imports and exports. Donovan, the public face of the MLS, has built his reputation in what can be considered a second tier league. It is a huge vote of confidence that a big European club wants him.
The fans want to watch this talent before they leave overseas- it drives up attendances and deepens the bond between the fan and his club. They can also look forward to Donovan's replacement. A homegrown talent could step in or the MLS could go outside to sign a big name. Or Donovan could come back in a few seasons, now a true legend, to a transformed league and to an even wider audience.
Either way, it means that we are looking at a dynamic league, a league that will go on making inroads and deepening associations irrespective of whether a player even as singular as Donovan commits to an MLS future or casts his eyes across the pond. An Everton future means that the national team can benefit from an even better Donovan. It just comes back to this old CSNY song.
Roy Hodgson got off to a winning start in his biggest challenge so far - as Liverpool on the strength of a brace by David Ngog overcame Macedonian club FK Rabotnicki in their Europa Cup qualifying game. 'Pool rested 10 of their World Cup stars including captain Steven Gerrard, new signing Joe Cole, Jamie Carragher, and Glen Johnson.
Javier Mascherano, the subject of unceasing transfer gossip also did not travel, as did newly committed Fernando Torres. Others left were Maxi Rodriguez, Ryan Babel, Dirk Kuyt, and goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
However, Ngog provided enough of a spark to impress Hodgson to consider a bigger role for the French striker this season:
"Ngog has done well in all of the three games he has played for me. He crowned his good performance with two goals and that's what strikers need to do."
Liverpool built a solid foundation through good defending by Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Sotirios Krygiakos which gave its attack the confidence it needed to raid Rabotnicki.
The match had some distasteful moments when Rabotnicki supporters targeted Ngog and David Amoo with racist chants. UEFA has launched an investigation.
Both Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie could be unavailable for the Liverpool opener as per Wenger because they are still struggling to be match fit. The duo are rejoining August 5th on the day of the official photo call. Fabregas will be PICTURED in Arsenal's new colours. Booyah! Carles Puyol and Barca.
Meanwhile, Cesc was spotted attending former Arsenal team mate, Julio Baptista's wedding to Silvia Nistal in Madrid. The Beast and Cesc became friends during the former's brief tenure as a Gunner and kept in touch. Good to see Cesc dressed sharp and having a life away from the field.
Here is the rub. Both RVP and Cesc missing such an important opener against Liverpool is not a good sign. Actually, it is a terrible sign. Hopefully, they get up to speed and are declared fit for that match. The Reds will be hungry to reclaim lost ground and they have had their transfer sagas in Torres and Gerrard. So getting off the ground with a good opening performance against them will be an enormous boost.
Klaus Allofs, Werder Bremen's general manager has indicated that Mesut Özil's price tag is €16 million and he is open to offers. As per Özil it will have to be a top club in the Liga or Premiership with Champions League opportunities. Pre World Cup he had indicated his preference to go to Chelsea or Man Utd.
One could also wait till 2011 when he becomes available for a free transfer which is the reason for all these pre-contract rumours with Real in the Spanish media. (As per AS/ Marca)
Diego Maradona is miffed with Julio Grondona and Carlos Bilardo for "forcing" him out of his job as coach.
He said in a voice that was broken with sorrow..."Grondona lied to me. Bilardo betrayed me."
Goalies - unlike other football players in their team- are allowed to dive.The ref has no objection to goalies diving.In fact they are encouraged to do so.
Neymar tried a fancy "Panenka" penalty assuming that the goalie would display normal goalkeeping behaviour and dive either to the right or to the left.However the Vitoria goalie Lee just stood there and Neymar was baffled.
And also left looking a bit foolish.
The Incident occured around 73 minutes into the first leg of the Brazilian Cup Final.Santos were already winning 1 - 0 at that stage and went on to finish the game 2 - 0 .
Mark Hughes takes up the Fulham job and is now closer at hand to renew his charges of the "dark arts" that Arsenal practices. Cesc Fabregas should enjoy these encounters a bit more fully and Wenger will be sure to pump Sparky's flesh more vigorously with the flash bulbs going off.
However, more importantly for Arsenal, his managerial appointment could expedite Mark Schwarzer's arrival at Arsenal.
That is because David James wants to move to Craven Cottage but there has been no one at the helm to approve of the transfer. With the arrival of Sparky, it should be a matter of time before Arsenal put in an improved bid for Schwarzer paving the way for his arrival at Arsenal as Fulham compensate with a James switch.
The MLS All Stars showdown in Houston showed a glimmer of what Man Utd will look like in the future, and if the game is any indication, it is a very bright one.
Federico Macheda with a brace, Darron Gibson's sizzling free kick, Tom Cleverley's sublime touch, and El Chicharito with a debut dream goal. 5-2, the final score against an MLS All Star team that was by no imagination, an easy touch.
Ryan Giggs was there and Nani too. But the evening belonged initially to Macheda, benefiting from some defensive foibles but showing an elan for impeccable finishes. The score read 2-0 before the All Stars came back on the quarter through the auspices of some nice defensive regrouping by Shalrie Joseph.
Guillermo Barrios Schelotto might have been disappointing but Juan Pablo Angel and his probing runs into the box were not. The All Stars pulled the trigger a lot but the half time score still read 2-0. Chad Marshall had a very real chance but he was unable to convert his header. It was time for Bruce Arena to trot out his half a dozen changes for the second half in the hopes of turning the match around.
The pick was David Ferriera, the little Colombian pibe who was everywhere. His endeavour earned him a free kick outside the left edge of the box and his line drive was picked beautifully by Brian Ching, the hometown hero to glance the ball past Van Der Sar. Score, 2-1 and the All Stars were breathing once again. Very visibly.
But a few thing happened on the way to the forum. Ryan Giggs gave way symbolically to Darron Gibson in a passing of the guards. Gibson responded with a magnificently struck free kick that parted the gap between Nick Rimando and the upper left corner leaving the RSL goalie flailing futilely. 3-1 and now the All Stars were fighting time.
Sir Alex's subs included Tom Cleverley for the struggling Gabriel Obertan in the first half and in the second half, to the loudest cheers, Javier "El Chicharito" Hernandez trotted out to the pitch. Instantly, the "Te Amo Chicharito" signs came out amongst flashing cameras to record the historic moment: The first Mexican to play for Man Utd.
Cleverley latched onto a pass from Darren Fletcher and got past Wilman Conde with a clever little loop which he collected and controlled with his left foot and slid past Rimando. Then it was the turn of Chicharito who ran towards the left flank to gather in a long ball and turn towards goal to bend the ball with his right foot past Rimando for Man Utd's fifth goal in a portend of what might be expected in the seasons to come.
Dwayne De Rosario scored the All Stars second goal as he took over a Brian Ching pass in the box and was able to skip past Wes Brown to score.
Landon Donovan came on but judging from his cameo, the evening before against the Puerto Rico Islanders had taken its toll. He did little of note so late in the match and it was more to do with the crowd to cheer about something, anything. Meanwhile John Harkes, who sounds remarkably like Mary Carillo, during his colour commentary, was slipping in and out of some nationalistic conflation - equating the All Stars with the US national team. These are clubs, John - the World Cup was over more than two weeks ago.
Marta, Marta, Marta!
PUMA's Project Pink will strive to raise awareness -- and funds -- in support of the fight against breast cancer. In conjunction with their partnership with the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), PUMA will outfit some of the best female players in the world in special Project Pink kits for five WPS matches. The brand has also created a range of Project Pink merchandise that will be available for purchase beginning this summer and continuing through Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Profits from the sale of PUMA's Project Pink gear will be donated to a nonprofit committed to breast cancer awareness or research; the beneficiary will be named as the result of a national online voting campaign.
P.S. - you can also enter to win a trip to the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany >>
Oooof! Hold that thought about the MLS being on the rise. What an embarrassment as the Islanders hammered a slack jawed, shell shocked Galaxy into pathetic submission in their CONCACAF Champions League encounter. The supposedly watertight Galaxy defense crumbled and Josh Saunders looked like he had butter on his hands fending off those long range bombs.
MLS All-Stars meet Manchester United in the All-Star Game (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2).
There is reason for optimism in the MLS - the clubs are riding a wave of confidence with their performances against the likes of Man Utd, City, and Spurs.
The matches so far have seen and this is what one likes the best- a good deal of disciplined ball possession. A bit of Spain in each of the clubs, be it Kansas City or the Red Bulls but they have managed to find players to pass to. It's not been the speculative sort of football where one hopes a player gets open to score- rather there is a lot of interlinking between players. The result is a fluidity and a purpose that was missing previously.
We also have a lot of individual talent right now in the MLS which makes it a lot more exciting, dynamic, and at the same time, paradoxically unpredictable. Because players like Macoumba Kandji, Kei Kamara, and Thierry Henry can score in so many different ways and out of nowhere.
These are exciting times for the MLS and one can see why Greg Lalas gives the All Stars a thumbs up to win today. Well, I would too but for El Chicharito - hopefully the All Stars on the field are not caught up in Chicharito watching.
The kid has his head on his shoulders and he knows the game and the club. He talks about enjoying the game and not getting caught up in achievements in a refreshing change. Socrates (the player and cultural commentator) would be proud of him.
He will be seen today at the MLS All Star match. And he could prove to be the difference maker.
Real Mallorca shareholder and tennis numero uno Rafa Nadal hit out at UEFA's decision to exclude the financially troubled club from their rightful Europa Cup representation. Mallorca placed fifth in the Liga after a thrilling see saw battle with Sevilla which went right down to the wire.
The governing body ruled that the club had not fulfilled the admission criteria to be allowed into the competition. In April this year, Mallorca went into financial administration. A study done by University of Barcelona placed their debt to the tune of $110 million.
"It's a hell of a blow because playing in Europe fills you with excitement and the players have earned it," said the Wimbledon and French Open champion.
"I don't know the reasons behind the exclusion but if it is for economic reasons there would not be any European competition at all because everyone is in the same situation."
It's a shame because Mallorca actually acted responsibly by declaring voluntary administration to sort out their dodgy finances. Rather than continue to live beyond their means which seems to be the case with almost every club and use creative accounting tricks to hide true debt they decided to restructure early. They should be commended and not penalized by UEFA.
The club has appealed the decision. Meanwhile, FIFA's decision benefits Villareal who get into the Europa Cup playoff round.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, fashion entrepreneurs and hard core AC Milan fans who drape the Rossoneri and the Azzurri in their trademark suits and wrap their loins too are bringing their fashion sense to Stamford Bridge.
It must be one of the perks of having Carlo Ancelotti as a former Milanista. Then again this might be one way of keeping Ashley Cole at Chelsea- the lure of being part of a D&G campaign for underwear clad football players. Maybe he can proclaim his patriotism loudly in a Union Jack cod piece and all will be forgiven.
The Blues are going to wear D& G designed two button blue jackets and blue jacquard ties. The fashion duo are also going to design exclusive areas for high powered guests on the lines of their own D&G fantasy box at the San Siro where the glitterati get ring side seats and plenty of Dom Perignon and Cohibas to lube the evening.
Move over prawn sandwich people - the escargot nibblers are finally here. They even chant "Dol-ce Ga-bbana! Dol-ce Ga-baaaaaa-naaaa!" Which sounds very much like Go-al- azo! Go-aaaal-aaazo! if you try hard enough.
The Sun reports that Arsenal are preparing a £5.5m bid for Cagliari goalie Federico Marchetti last seen in the World Cup for the disastrous Azzurri. If this is indeed the case, then it is a disappointing choice.
Marchetti is estranged from Cagliari following his desire to play for Sampdoria with the opportunity of Champions League experience but the deal fell through because as per Marchetti his club asked for too much money. It led to some very emotional and damaging outbursts which prompted Cagliari to put him on the transfer market.
What we saw at the World Cup was not very inspiring.
Marchetti conceded four goals on six shots against New Zealand and Slovakia. He was uncomfortable dealing with crosses and beaten in the air on a number of occasions. These are the same sort of flaws that got Manuel Almunia into trouble- so why does Wenger want some more of the same? Different day, different goalie, same result.
Pay less and get Mark Schwarzer, a good goalie, excellent in the air with a safe pair of hands (Fulham has been cold to Arsenal's overtures) and develop Wojciech Szczęsny in the meantime to phase out the older Schwarzer in a couple of years. Or pay more to get a younger goalkeeper of calibre like Maarten Stekelenburg who will give at least another decade of service.
Marouane Chamakh opened his account for Arsenal converting a spot kick against Austrian third division side SC Neusiedl. The other goal scorers were Theo Walcott, Jay Emmanuel Thomas, and Carlos Vela.
Thomas, Jack Wilshere, and Samir Nasri combined well. The defense looked a bit shaky at times. Manuel Almunia came on in the first half and in the second half Vito Mannone was brought on and saved a penalty.
The instant "Chicharito" Hernandez put that ball into the net against Argentina in the World Cup, you knew you were looking at a special player. It was brilliant. All he required was a sliver of daylight between the goalie and the near post and he stuck it in with his left foot.
He will take to the field tomorrow for Man Utd against the MLS All Stars if cleared of injury concerns and no doubt most of the attention will be on the lad.
At £7m he is the same sort of bargain that got Cristiano Ronaldo's feet wet at Old Trafford and by the looks of things, we could have a similar trajectory.
He has a family lineage to go with that talent. His grandfather, Tomas Balcazar, a Gualdajara stalwart, scored a goal against France in the 1954 World Cup and almost six decades later at the same age of 22 years, Chicharito replicated the feat against France in this World Cup. Chicharito's father, Javier Gutierrez, a striker was also a member of the Mexican team which reached the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup.
Man Utd were scouting Chicharito in October 2009 and were in no urgency to sign him but once the 21 year old made the World Cup squad, there was a flurry of activity which resulted in United's solicitor going to Gualdajara to make the deal happen. Sir Alex was fearful that that a good performance would open up offers for him from other clubs.
"But then he came into the national team and that created a potential problem: if he went to the World Cup and did well at the tournament then we could be in danger of losing him."
That turned out to be a nice bit of serendipity. On April 8th, Chicharito became the first Mexican player to sign for Man Utd.
We are looking at a rejuvenation of Mexican football - it was quite gloomy a year ago when the top clubs fell off their perch in the league and El Tri had all but conceded to the USA in the battle for regional supremacy.
Now we have Carlos Vela, Giovani Dos Santos, and Pablo Barrera heading an increasingly confident and skillful national team. But the best and the brightest of the lot is "Chicharito". The wonder of Gualdajara will make good.
- Lack of self criticism: He did not take responsibility for the Germany defeat. In fact, he did not even want to review the match.
- Incommunicado: He did not communicate with Julio Grondona since his return two weeks ago from the World Cup.
- Squandered public support: 10,000 fans cheered his return from SA but he was unable to turn that to his advantage.
- My way or the highway: The AFA wanted to include new assistants to help with coaching. Maradona refused to entertain the idea.
- The trip to Venezuela: Rather than negotiate the terms of his contract, Maradona decided to spend his time with Hugo Chavez.
Behind the scenes, it is Carlos Bilardo who seems to have objected strongly to Maradona's current set of assistants and support staff, which swung Julio Grondona's decision.
Maradona's end is full of loose threads and entanglements. He will be back because it appears likely that the nation and the Argentinian government are desperate for this telenovela to go on. His image needs rehabilitation.
The other reason is that there are simply no suitable candidates to step up. Jorge Luis Borges might have been alluding to this sort of phantasm in his fictional world of "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius".
Sol Campbell who did quite well as Thomas Vermaelen's central partner after William Gallas was ruled injured for the rest of the season in April is all set for a Toon move.
Which obviously means that Arsenal only has Vermaelen left with substantial experience as Laurent Koscielny is too raw and Johan Djourou is returning after a year's layoff from injury. This situation is untenable - Wenger has to splash some cash to get a quality central defender with some annual rings.
Even by Wenger's notoriously measured standards, the pace is maddeningly slow. We still need a goalkeeper and Alexandre Song can't be left exposed as the only holding midfielder of note. It will be interesting to see what Fabregas's demands are - it may center around transfers.
The ulema in Malaysia recently issued a statement banning Man Utd shirts. The target of their wrath: The famed red devil crest emblazoned on every Man Utd shirt was anti- Islamic and satanic.
It set of a furor in Malaysia, a country that has thousands of Man Utd supporters. The ulema were forced to change tack saying they did not call for an explicit ban - their focus was on the "wrong values" message being sent out.
"We just advise people not to wear this," said Harussani Zakaria, a cleric from northern Perak state. "Satan is, for us, our enemy ... It's the wrong value. Satan is always bad."
As this article highlights, the problem lies with the ruling political party, UMNO, kowtowing to misguided precepts of Malay unity and far right religious voices which are crowding out reformists within the party.
It appears Joan Laporta, Barca's former president was using some creative accounting to announce an 11m euro profit. A re-audit ordered by current president Sandro Rosell actually showed a far more grim picture of loss. To the tune of 77.1m euros. The revised figures were announced by Javier Faus, Barca's VP of economic affairs
"The figures presented by the former board don't reflect the real image. They have cheated," Faus said.
Barca also took out a recent bank loan of 155m euros to pay the salaries and wages of employees and players. All this adds up to a club whose sporting and economic success seem inversely proportional with each other.
This bodes well for Arsenal retaining Cesc Fabregas for another season at least or maybe even two, if they continue to refuse to negotiate. Barca have been 'tapping up' without any retribution. It seems that they don't have the funds either. Wenger and Fabregas are set to meet this Friday for a man to man.
5th November, 1994 against Atletico Madrid. The legend was just getting started. 323 goals later- these are the ten best according to Marca.com >>
Today,he bade farewell to the only club he knew, 741 appearances in 16 years. Earlier indications were that he was bound for Schalke but there is increasing speculation that he might end up in the Premiership.
Julio Grondona does not accede to El Diego's demands for his own assistants - the choice of Oscar Ruggeri was particularly problematic. This is not new. Maradona had threatened to resign immediately after being appointed as coach if Ruggeri was to be excluded. The issue was resolved with Carlos Bilardo acting as mediator.
Maradona made continuation as national coach conditional on absolute control over his backroom staff, insisting that if "If they touch a hair of one of my guys, even if it's the masseur or the kitman, I'm going.
Other issues cropped up in his meeting with Grondona as the AFA president taking exception to Maradona's declaration he would not want to watch the Germany match and it was just the one game that was the problem. There was nothing to learn from that loss.
Maradona's failure to be self critical and his insistence on the sort of backroom staff who were essentially rubber stamps probably convinced Grondona that El Diego lacked the critical skills to learn tactics for the 2014 World Cup. But even before that going through over a 100 players, playing politics with River Plate in hosting Brazil at Rosario Central, and the AFA stripping him of autonomy over selections after the Bolivia loss marked a troubled and haphazard coaching career.
His tenure as coach was the shortest on record since Grondona took over as AFA president in 1979. Lasting one year, seven months, and twelve days. Maradona took over Alfio Basile in November 2008 and achieved World Cup qualification after a number of twists and turns, amidst mounting concerns within the public and a skeptical media, capped finally with a victory over Paraguay which he celebrated by performing the infamous "Penguin dive".
Maradona's bizarre profanity laden press conference as he laced into media for their critical coverage got him banned for two months. More sideline entertainment at the World Cup was to follow as he exchanged the dressed down tracksuit and clean shaven look for a Mario Puzo character in a rumpled suit and a beard.
He was like a warm, cuddly bear, indulging in touchy feely displays with each of his players, after each goal, tackle, and victory. Who wears two watches? One can't remember anything like it ever in football history. It seemed to work for a while, as Argentina played stylish attacking football to win the group stage convincingly.
However Mexico was a tough act and then came the German annihilation in the quarter-finals. Suddenly, inspiration on the sidelines could not tide over as Maradona looked woefully short of tactical nous with the Germans scoring at will.
So who takes over now? Carlos Bianchi is everyone's favourite and with a legendary record of winning four Copa Libertadores titles should be considered a front runner. But the former Velez Sarsfield striker has a poor relationship with the autocratic Grondona. In addition, he has not coached for a long time now, having turned a number of coaching jobs since leaving Atletico Madrid in 2005.
The coach most mentioned after Bianchi is Checho Batista who led Argentina to its 2008 Olympics gold medal. He is also coach of the U20, with a much needed pulse on the younger talent who might find their way into the senior squad in a few years.
Marcelo "El Loco" Bielsa could also find his way back into consideration after doing such a wonderful job with Chile. Perhaps Argentina would like to lure back their coaching talent. Another candidate could be Alejandro Sabella of Estudiantes guiding them to a famous Copa Libertadores victory in his first year as coach. A number of former players who turned to coaching after retirement with varying degrees of success - Miguel Angel Russo, Diego Simeone, and Americo Gallego also have an outside chance.
In November 2008, we had written why Maradona would not have made good coach with our reasons >>
New coach Mano Menezes did not exactly suspend all 23 players of the Brazilian squad like his French counterpart Laurent Blanc but in rejecting all but four of them for the USA selection, he accomplished a similar sort of result. The four who escaped the axe were Dani Alves, Ramires, Thiago Silva, and Robinho.
Even more stark, the absence of the Brazil's strength, its cohort of defenders and holding midfielders like Lucio, Juan, Maicon, Felipe Melo, and Gilberto who were Dunga's torchbearers. Missing too is Elano, another Dunga acolyte.
We can pick up the theme right away: Creativity, speed, and youth.
The average age of Dunga's squad was 29.3 years, the oldest in Brazilian World Cup history. Menezes's squad is six years younger at 23.1 years of age. His eye is firmly on the future.
Menezes picks include the highly touted attacking midfielder Paulo Henrique Ganso, his Santos team mate and forward, Neymar, and holding midfielder Jucilei Da Silva of Corinthians. Neymar is just 18 years of age and Ganso, a couple of years older. By the time 2014 rolls around, they will be hitting full stride.
He also picked five of the seven players that Dunga kept as reserves. Apart from Ganso, that list includes Diego Tardelli (Atlético Mineiro), Carlos Eduardo (Hoffenheim), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Sandro (Internacional).
Alexandre Pato gets a call up. But his AC Milan team mate Ronaldinho has been overlooked. Man Utd's right back, Rafael and Liverpool central midfielder Lucas represent the Premiership. Menezes has struck a balance with 12 overseas players and 12 from the domestic league. Depending on the outcome of the Copa Libertadores semi-final match between Sao Paulo and Internacional, Menezes will cut either Sandro or Hernanes to bring the squad to its usual 23 man strength.
None of the goalkeepers have ever debuted for the national team. In total, eleven of the 24 have never played a single minute for the Selecao. The defense and the midfield look very raw except for the presence of Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, and Ramires. The striker corps is a bit more experienced with Robinho, Pato, and Tardelli having differing levels of experience. This of course, is the first cut, which means that Menezes will tinker around with the squad as the matches become more competitive.
Brazil team vs USMNT, August 10th at Giants Stadium, Meadowlands, NJ
Goalkeepers: Victor (Gremio), Jeferson (Botafogo), Renan (Avai)
Defenders: David Luiz (Benfica), Henrique (Santander), Rever (Atlético Mineiro), Thiago Silva (Milan), Rafael (Manchester United), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), André Santos (Fenerbahce)
Midfielders: Sandro (Internacional), Hernanes (São Paulo), Jucilei (Corinthians), Lucas (Liverpool), Ramires (Benfica), Carlos Eduardo (Hoffenheim), Ederson (Lyon), Paulo Henrique Ganso (Santos)
Strikers: Alexandre Pato (Milan), Diego Tardelli (Atlético Mineiro), Andre (Santos), Neymar (Santos), Robinho (Manchester City).
This is as per the Italian publication who are reporting that the Inter striker could be presented as early as Wednesday on a 5 year contract worth €4m per year. Inter gets €30 m plus an additional bonus of €5m tied to goals and appearances.
He is already been thrown a farewell party.
Negotiations are still ongoing complicated by the fact that City are already on their US tour and Inter are on their way there as well. His agent Mino Raiola is cautioning that an announcement may not happen anytime soon.
But sources are confident that by today or early tomorrow, the deal will be completed and Balotelli will be free to join City on or before they play their fixture on Wednesday against Club America. It will be interesting to see if Balotelli suits up for the City vs Inter showdown on Saturday in Baltimore if the deal really happens.
Don't you love the smell of sensationalism in the morning? All roads lead to Citeh if you are a striker. Mesut Oezil not so much.
An ancient struggle re-erupts on Earth between two extraterrestrial clans, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, with a clue to the ultimate power held by a young teenager.
Messi gets the role of the young teenager with the ultimate power.
Dunga as the heroic autobot..!
...and he who cannot be named as the evil decepticon.....!
Did they send him a list of trendy nightspots with that tourist brochure?
Owner Silvio Berlusconi who knows very little about club matters and the man who fans revile most, says the Brazilian is going nowhere. Which makes sense- why would you want to let go of the player who did better than Kaka in his debut at Real? 12 goals and 14 assists. One can't complain about those numbers.
As widely rumoured Barca center back/ holding midfielder Rafa Marquez could be announced as Red Bulls third DP as soon as early next week. The specific details are not known but it could be worth $12 million over four years.
Marquez joins Thierry Henry and Juan Pablo Angel from the top drawer Euopean leagues. As a member of the Mexican national team, he would be a huge draw in the Tri State area. Exciting times are ahead of the Red Bulls. One can envision plenty of tickets sold once he gets here. However here is some advice for NJ Transit:
Please improve your access to the Harrison Station, especially after the match gets over. Getting to the platform becomes painful for fans jamming that one single entrance. Add more service. For NYC dwellers it means a frustrating 2 hour ride back as the train trundles, stops frequently, or breaks down. Red Bulls authorities can take the lead on this - you really want the fans focus on the match.
Watching City in the Barclays New York Challenge was painful- they got dismantled by Sporting Lisbon comprehensively and then marginally improved against the Red Bulls but still lost. It was obvious what they lacked was a creative playmaker, not a striker, or a holding midfielder. Mancini threw in his lot of part time players/loaners - Jo and Craig Bellamy to name a few.
Right on cue after Roy Hodgson announced that Fernando Torres had "a beef with the club" they come up with a £70m offer for Fernando Torres. Look at the difference in price between the end of April when Torres was a City target and valued at £50m and now!
In three months the figure has jumped £20m - tell me again how many matches did Torres play and how many goals did he score in this period? On what planet does an injured player command a 30% jump in price. That's right- the Eastlands is the Neverland of football nowadays.
Look at how much they are willing to pay for James Milner, a good player, solid and serviceable down that right channel but worth over £20m? Which begs the question- why do you need him when you have Adam Johnson doing exactly the same thing and better?
You have to question Roberto Mancini's decisions. He is an extremely conservative coach - his ultra defensive approach is overcompensated for by his reflexive purchase of strikers. City looks imbalanced with its installation of a fleet of holding midfielders and strikers.
First off, for fairness sake, United did not have Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Park Ji Sung, Michael Carrick, Edwin Van Der Sar, Darren Fletcher - so a number of their first squad stalwarts were missing. Secondly, this is the pre-season for them and mid season for the MLS clubs so in terms of fitness and match preparation there is obviously a big gap.
Having said that Man Utd took to Arrowhead Stadium with Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in midfield. They also had Nani and Dimitar Berbatov up front. Their back line had Jonny Evans at center and Rafael who have already seen substantial minutes for their injured counterparts, Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown. This squad on paper could have put aside most Premiership competition.
However if the Kansas City match is any harbinger - with Rio Ferdinand out for almost 6 weeks and Nemanja Vidic struggling with form, this Man Utd back line are susceptible to set pieces. Rafael is very good pushing up front but he leaves big spaces behind and is not especially good at tracking back. Gary Neville will definitely need to show up.
The MLS seems to have grown up and we saw a KC team that was not intimidated. They exploited the gaps in the defense and on one such occasion Davy Arnaud was able to score. Arnaud, Kei Kamara, and Ryan Smith showed a lot of enterprise.
Man Utd kept countering and off one such move Giggs was able to pick out Berbatov who was brought down in the box by Jimmy Conrad. The defender was very harshly red carded- replays actually showed he had gotten the ball. The Bulgarian slotted home the spot kick in a cool finish to equalize just before half time. Conditions were ripe for the visitors to pick apart the competition.
But it was the shorthanded KC team that came out ahead in the second half as Kei Kamara headed home a corner. The contest turned nail biting as Shavar Thomas, Roger Espinoza, and Michael Harrington pugnaciously defended against wave after wave of Man Utd's attack from Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Danny Welbeck and Gabriel Obertan. Sir Alex Ferguson made wholesale changes to speed up the game but kept old hands Giggs and Scholes indicating that this match was being taken seriously by them.
One can't believe Raul is ending his Real Madrid career and moving to Schalke. And Guti just bid farewell and might be off to Besiktas. It's like seeing Man Utd without Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. An era ends at the Bernabeu.
Raul owns the club's two biggest records: The club's all time appearance leader with 741 matches and the all time leading goal scorer with 323. A career spanning 16 years and each one of them spent at Real. He was awarded a contract for life in 2008 which stipulates that as long as he plays 30 matches in a season he gets an automatic extension.
Tomorrow there will be a press conference and the club will officially bid farewell to their talisman. But it is final, in Florentino Perez's Real, there is no place for their most decorated player.
Sparkling play by the Red Bulls as they outshone City in the Barclays New York Challenge. The last 15 minutes were all Red Bulls as they treated their fans to some excellent ball possession frustrating City's attempts to score the equalizer.
Dane Richards was the best player on the field as his speed and ability to cut inside kept Wayne Bridge on his toes. In the 5th minute, Richards outpaced Bridge on the right flank and turning the corner, centered the ball to Macumba Kandji, who toe poked the ball past Joe Hart. Kandji and Thierry Henry kept the crowd entertained with their one touch ball.
That's what Titi brings to the game as he laid back a bit deeper, allowing Kandji to come up front, and tried to hit him on the break with some clever touches. It almost worked on a couple of occasions.
Jo equalized for City but later in the match, Kandji laid off a perfect pass across to Richards, and the little winger smacked in an absolute beauty.
Roberto Mancini made a number of substitutions bringing in the very dangerous Adam Johnson who created the best chance for an equalizer but Alex Nimeley's touch was off. Emmanuel Adebayor and Jo also had their chances but Bouna Coundoul made two very good saves. Adebayor got no love from the crowd this side of the pond too- each touch was booed. Very nice.
But City also showed why it will struggle this season - they just do not have the creative midfielder who can put together that killer pass or control the midfield. They are too disparate a team with excellent individuals in both attack and defense. But there are very long linkages to deal with over here. Inter faced the same problem under Roberto Mancini till Mourinho went and got hold of Wesley Sneijder. On the other side, a very good Siniša Ubiparipović kept tight control of the passing game after Thierry Henry was subbed off in the second half.
Full marks to the Red Bulls. Its got me all lathered up and ready to become a fan. This could be a fantastic season for them - Thierry Henry, Juan Pablo Angel, Macoumba Kandji, Dane Richards, Jeremy Hall, Tony Tchani, Andrew Boyens, Bouna Coundoul. A great mix of experience and youth with some very good talent.
Maarten Stekelenburg's top ten saves
After the Joe Hart, Hugo Lloris, and Mark Schwarzer link ups, one does not know whether the Maarten Stekelenburg interest is anything serious.
NOTW says the Ajax and Oranje goalie is worth £4m. Which makes you wonder if that is indeed the price, then why aren't more clubs interested? Ajax is offloading players but so far it has been Luis Suarez mentioned as most likely to leave.
Arsenal need a quality goalkeeper and even if Stekelenburg is worth much more, they should go for it. At 27 years of age, Stekelenburg has many more years left as a goalie. Having someone of his caliber as the last line of defense just inspires more confidence then all the ones we have at present.
Stekelenburg is not the only goalie linked as Andriy Arshavin seems to be selling the finer points of Arsenal and London life to good friend Igor Akinfeev, Russia's top custodian. The CSKA Moscow goalie has said he would be seriously consider moving to Arsenal if an offer is made.
Arsenal also need one more big name central defender because Laurent Koscielny is still too green. And Wenger needs to find another quality holding midfielder for the 4-2-1-3 formation to materialize. Gary Cahill would be a nice addition at center back as Phil Jagielka is for all practical purposes, off limits. For the holding midfielder, Arsenal should renew their interest in Jeremy Toulalan, one of the few Les Bleus who showed up to play this World Cup. There was some talk of Felipe Melo but his short fuse makes him a liability.
He did wear a LFC scarf at the World Cup, which really does not mean much. But the reason why he will stay is because at this point he is an injury risk. He might have a "beef with the club" but who is buying - at this point the market for injured players even one as talented as Torres is small. Realistically, there are only three clubs that can afford him.
Chelsea might be interested but they seem to be holding their counsel because of his frequent injuries which has played havoc with his productivity. At this point plonking down millions of pounds in a downturn, (reportedly £60million) on a player prone to injury is not such a smart idea. The big spenders of a few seasons ago are on a budget.
Real, another club which might fancy him, saw another record breaking transfer case in Kaka struggling through a misdiagnosed injury. Plus, Mourinho seems more interested in going after wing backs rather than another striker. Which leaves us with City, who have shown that there is never a striker they did not like. But if Torres fancies CL competition, he is not going to get it at the Eastlands.
Injuries like the one Torres suffered are never a good sign. Just as you are speeding, you pull up and then crumple to the pitch without contact in front of the world. The image does not inspire confidence in clubs who are in the market to buy. Adductor strains are notoriously chronic and they impinge on acceleration and force used to strike the ball. This is the third time that Torres has injured the same group of muscles.
What defines El Nino is his speed- the sort that he used to blister Philipp Lahm. If that facet is in question, then only Liverpool is a safe bet because they have already invested money on him, brought Joe Cole on board as bait, and are negotiating to get new investors on board which should take away the ownership issues which Torres might have.
After 24 years in the club, 15 years in the first team, José María Gutiérrez Hernández aka Guti, Real's favourite chameleon called it a day for the club. He won 15 trophies with the club which include 5 Liga and 3 Champions League titles, although he did not play one single minute in those CL finals. In all 526 appearances and 77 goals. Fifth in the all time Real Madrid list.
"As I said this was a right time for me and hopefully when you leave football one can return to this club. I was nine years old when I entered, now I'm 33 and all my development and values were learned at Real Madrid. It was not easy making this decision. "
Guti was a protean and unselfish actor, as the club transitioned him from the role of a second striker to that of attacking midfielder, roles that he slipped in and out of with shifting priorities when Morientes was injured, Ronaldo came on board, and Zidane retired. His minutes became even more limited with the arrival of Kaka which led to a falling out with Manuel Pellegrini over playing minutes.
Rumours are that he is bound for Besiktas.
The 2010 Copa NYC tournament kicked off yesterday with 16 teams doing battle. NYC England seems to have done well progressing to the quarterfinals to take on NYC Mexico today at 8:30 PM. Maybe their coach can take over Fabio Capello's job.
Argentina and Greece will meet again- this time hopefully Greece shows more endeavour than their national counterparts. An all Caribbean showdown as Jamaica and Haiti take on each other. In the last quarterfinal Euro 2012 hosts Poland meet Ireland who did not have to endure a Thierry Henry handball to make progress.
The semi-finals are on July 31st and the finals and third place matches are August 1st at Flushing Meadows.
Here is an article on the brains trust behind NYC's version of the World Cup >>
This past Thursday, New Yorkers were treated to the sight of some of the sport's legends helping fund raise for a worthy cause.
Hublot, the makers of fine quality Swiss watches teamed up with Manchester United in a reprise of their partnership to help raise money for UNICEF. Their association dates back to 2008 when Hublot designed United's Big Bang. Since then Hublot and United have teamed up to raise money for United for UNICEF which has raised more than £2 million over a decade and changed the lives of 2.2 million children.
The event was organized with the historic Flatiron building forming the backdrop.
The audience was fired up by the MC, Lawrence of Street Soccer USA, an organization that does yeoman's work with the homeless, while waiting for Messrs Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, Edwin Van Der Sar, and Sir Alex Ferguson to show up. The cause: To raise a million dollars for UNICEF by kicking a ball into a cutout on a giant image of a Hublot watch from 51 feet away.
Lawrence kept it going inviting spectators to have a go and some of the kids were truly impressive, coming close, very close to the target. We will probably see them suit up professionally one of these days. It was hot but the friendly Promofact people kept us cool with plenty of water and iced tea.
A little after 5 PM, the moment that everyone was waiting for so patiently- a fleet of big black SUV's arrived and Darren Fletcher walked in to cheers followed by David Gill, Man Utd's CEO, Edwin Van Der Sar, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Sir Alex Ferguson, and Hublot's CEO, Jean Claude Biver. Having watched so much Premiership football over the years, it was quite a thrill to watch them in person, in the flesh - the tall graceful Van Der Sar and the pint sized flame haired Scholes.
What would Man Utd be without Scholes, Giggs, and Van Der Saar? Between the three - careers spanning 40 years and over a thousand appearances. But back to the business of raising money and Van Der Saar actually came closest to hitting the target. No matter. The event raised over a $100,000 (exact figure $110,008), a pretty healthy figure. Hublot's CEO was at hand to present the check to UNICEF and once the formalities were over, the audience milled around the players and Sir Alex for photos and autographs.
There were no star hang ups. Sir Alex, the ruddy faced public face of the Premiership patiently signed jerseys, press passes, and footballs as he talked about the club's long association with UNICEF. How about the forthcoming season? Bullish. City? No concern. Giggs and Scholes happily mugged for the cameras while Van Der Sar loped around the perimeter pen in hand signing memorabilia.
It was onwards to SD26 for the after event of cocktails and appetizers with the players. Great ambience, fantastic food, and plenty of good conversation. All for a worthy cause. Hublot and Manchester United deserve kudos for this very worthy partnership to change the lives of millions of children. A special shout to the Promofact people who did such a wonderful job organizing the event.
New France coach Laurent Blanc has spoken and what he said was something along the lines of "off with their heads"
The French Football Federation has suspended all 23 members of France's World Cup squad for their next game - a friendly against Norway in Olso on the 11th of August.
After a bit of an embarrassment, the Brazilian federation asked the Corinthians coach to take over the reins and guide the Seleção back to the beautiful game.
Earlier, Fluminese's Muricy Ramalho turned down the job, in what might be called a slap in the face of federation president Ricardo Teixeira.
Note: Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos both play for Corinthians, so the man gets it. Now, will he bring back the Brazil we love?
....with his feet ( clarification is essential for all irish people reading this as Henry has proved to be quite ambidextrous against them in the past - being able to score with either hand - with ease)
Below is a recently released picture from Domenech's top secret coaching manual showing him teaching Henry how high to keep his hand to score a goal without the ref seeing.Henry's hand,as you can see,is too high.But he rectified the error and scored that famous goal against the irish from the correct height.
And here now is footage of Henry against Tottenham using his feet only.
I'm back home now. My trip to South Africa was an amazing experience. Living without electricity, running water, or consistent transportation renewed my appreciation for luxuries I often take for granted. I walk into a dark room and in the flick of a switch it's bathed in light, the shower brings me an abundance of water in whatever temperature I want, and there are always reliable ways to get around. It was incredible to try out a less hectic and stressful lifestyle for a few weeks.
My final days in Nkwalini were consumed by a single task: organizing a SolarWorld-sponsored 11 v. 11 match for the village kids. SolarWorld, as part of their Sun-TV project, installed 36 solar-powered satellite television sets across rural Africa providing more than 2,000 Africans televised access to the World Cup at communal viewing stations. Nkwalini was home to two of these solar-operated facilities. In addition to watching the World Cup on these solar TVs and hanging out with the villagers, I had organized a soccer camp for some local youth players.
To help support this project, SolarWorld had sent a shipment of brand new soccer balls and jerseys to Mthatha, the nearest city. The day before I left Nkwalini and began my journey home, we finally were able to pick up the delivery. My last day in Nkwalini began with the traditional ritual of waiting for my host, Siphiwo, to meet up and take me in to the village center. I had already packed, finished my book, and pumped up all the SolarWorld soccer balls by the time he picked me up.
One thing I never quite adjusted to in Nkwalini was the slower pace of life and the loose attitude towards matters of timeliness and punctuality. Despite this chilled out approach, things did eventually tend to work themselves out, but not without some tense moments (for me).
For example, just a couple hours before I left Nkwalini, Siphiwo's car broke down. The battery had been faulty for a while (getting the car started involved pushing it to get it rolling because the battery would not turn the engine over), but a seriously flat tire compounded problems. This threatened to derail my plan of distributing the SolarWorld equipment and hosting a final 11 v. 11 match for the kids I'd been training all week.
It was a bit nerve wracking, but fortunately, everything worked out great in the end. We managed to get a series of alternative means of transportation: a passing American couple gave me a ride on their way from a nearby backpackers' inn and a friend I'd made earlier in my stay, Mxolisi, helped transport our equipment to the local fields.
By the time we arrived, it was clear that word of the match had traveled fast. There were more than 45 kids who wanted to play! I found a teacher who I had met during an earlier meeting with the tribal elite and enlisted him as a translator for the event. I gathered the kids around and gave them a brief speech about SolarWorld, why I had the opportunity to come to their village, and what a pleasure it was to work with them, as well as the plan for the match that afternoon. Next, Lutz, the German anthropologist I was working with, and I distributed the jerseys to the kids who had consistently showed up to the training sessions I had organized earlier in my stay. We figured this was the fairest way to determine who got jerseys and who didn't.
We held a brief photo shoot of the kids in the jerseys and began the match. It was a hectic, sloppy game, but everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. I snapped pictures and tried to referee a bit, but mostly we just let them play. Along the sidelines, little kids and older guys played with the extra balls. This was the most people that I'd seen together anywhere in my whole time in Nkwalini except when the government stipends got passed out and at the first match that South Africa's Bafana Bafana team played. Over 100 people had gathered to see the local kids play soccer!
Just before leaving I grabbed two kids who had been helpful to me in terms of making the training sessions happen and interviewed them briefly on camera. Lutz filmed and the teacher translated from English to Xhosa and vice versa. Both kids spoke concisely about how much fun they had at the SolarWorld sponsored soccer trainings and watching the World Cup. By all appearances, SolarWorld's contributions to the village of Nkwalini are deeply appreciated; without the televisions SolarWorld installed, dozens of people would not have seen Bafana Bafana play at all and without the balls SolarWorld sent there would be much less soccer played in this tiny village.
Just after returning from South Africa on an eighteen hour long flight from Johannesburg to JFK, I left my home in Vermont again and headed down to the Elite 300 Soccer Camp hosted at Swarthmore College to work as a counselor. It was quite a culture shock to leave a rural village and go to a high-priced college showcase camp. The juxtaposition struck me as profound when one of my first duties was to work in the equipment room of the Elite 300 camp distributing Nike jerseys to the new campers as they arrived with their families. I thought about the donated SolarWorld jerseys I had handed out to the village kids in Nkwalini. It was an illustration of how soccer is a global game that adapts brilliantly to the highly variable and differing circumstances of its international audience. The kids at the Elite 300 Camp had paid more than 600 USD and been driven or flown hundreds of miles for the chance to be seen by top college coaches; the kids in Nkwalini had walked several miles, often in bare feet, for the chance to play with real soccer balls in real soccer jerseys.
The Man U team climb up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art made famous by Rocky Balboa.
Van der Sar's Rocky impersonation is a bit tame without the theme music so here it is to watch the video again with....
Eye of the Tiger - Foreigner Music Code
Midtown, NYC. Ryan Giggs, Nani, Paul Scholes, Michael Owen, Darren Fletcher and Sir Alex Ferguson will try to put the ball into a target "masked" as a giant Hublot watch from 51 feet away. A goal will be worth 1 million dollars to UNICEF.
Today at 4 PM on 23rd Street and Broadway, next to the historic Flatiron building. The event is open to the public. Come on out - should be a wonderful experience watching these Premiership legends from one of the most storied clubs on the planet do their part for a very worthy cause.
A soccer feast unfolds today and New York Red Bulls fans will finally get to see Thierry Henry debut for their club. He goes up against familiar foes, Tottenham Hotspurs whose fans will be getting all COYS. Just like the old days when Titi made Arsenal his stomping grounds and became a legend.
So go NYRB. I will be there cheering on a memorable debut for Titi.
In short the interview by Rosanno Scotto and Greg Kelly showed absolutely no knowledge about their subject in question, Thierry Henry; the game in question, soccer; and the New York team in question, the Red Bulls. Video >>
Granted it was a morning show and the two interviewers were ingenues when it came to the sport but it is never a good thing when they and their ignorance become the talking points - it was brutal and breathtaking.
Surely, at the very least a cursory look up would have established that France did not win the World Cup, Thierry Henry is French, and he was not an asylum seeker escaping racism. That the MLS season was on also came as news to the interviewers. This coming from a network that runs Fox Soccer Channel and is presently broadcasting MLS matches.
And Greg Kelly, au contraire, we do not like "blow outs". This is based on a simple business model. Fans come back for hard fought, close games - just ask the New York Mets, the Kansas City Royals, or the Detroit Lions.
But if you were following Fox News, Thierry Henry might be charged with reverse racism and black privilege.
Despite Bill O'Reilly's blow hard revisionism, exclusive Fox News viewers show uniformly higher levels of ignorance. Just look at Iraq. In the end, it really was not all that surprising considering the source. Really, MLS- who was the wise guy who put Thierry Henry on for a Fox News interview? We got an unvarnished glimpse into a wide swath who just don't get the game.
One of Eduardo's best goals. What a perfect turn of the foot. This was scored after his return.
Eduardo's career at Arsenal was taking off when that horrible tackle by Martin Taylor shattered his ankle and sidelined him for a year and a half.
Sadly, he was not the same player and the injury seems to have taken a psychic and physical toll. Gone was the quick thinking, fleet footed fox in the box replaced by a more tentative and unsure version.
He is leaving for Shakhtar Donetsk on a £6 million transfer. He made 67 Arsenal appearances, scoring 20 times.
His best goal in my opinion was the one against Everton when he spins Phil Jagielka around and places the ball perfectly past Tim Howard. Brilliant bit of skill, almost Bergkamp like. A month later and it was hell in a handbasket for the Croazilian. Here is the goal>>
Fare thee well, Dudu. You will be missed.
Which player is not linked with City nowadays? Every hour it is a different one. Torres, Drogba, Balotelli, and now Landon Donovan.
Look at this part:
Asked whether Donovan would be arriving at Eastlands this summer, Mancini told Sky Sports News while on the club's pre-season tour in the New York: ''We will have to see. The market is open until the end of August. It could be, because Donovan is a good player.''
This is what a non-committal answer looks like. Cut and paste any player's name. City is interested.
Don Garber has clearly instituted a hands off policy on Donovan saying he was not for sale. And the midfielder has committed himself to a four year contract with the MLS.
However, there are other reasons why this is not happening.
What has happened in the Eastlands is a glut of players who have to scrap for playing minutes. Many are now out on loan spells - Jô, Felipe Caciedo, Bojinov, Benjani Mwaruwari, and Robinho. Some like Roque Santa Cruz who was prised out by Mark Hughes and brought to the Eastlands with much fanfare have seen very few minutes after the arrival of Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez.
This is what Donovan faces if he ever comes to City and I suspect he knows it. Ironically, he could end up asking for a loan spell to the Galaxy to ensure playing minutes.
Mancini is in New York with Man City as part of the Barclay's New York Challenge which also includes Sporting Lisbon, Spurs, and Red Bulls. I suspect he will be asked this question again and he will give the same reply. It is a nod to Donovan's talent as well as bit of a marketing ploy. Nothing more.
Hansson of the three great ghastly blunders.
First was the 95th minute penalty decision in a Champions League match between Atlético Madrid and Liverpool when Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard collapsed in the box when barely minimal contact was made; the match finished 1-1 after Gerrard converted the last-minute spot kick. After the match, Gerrard himself admitted that he would have been "livid" had a similar decision been given under reversed circumstances.
The second was during the the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup Final. During this match, Hansson failed to award Brazil a goal after a header by Kaká crossed the United States goal line before being cleared.
The third and most memorable was the Thierry Henry handball fiasco that gave the French team their passport to South Africa.
And now a documentary on his life that was made before he made ghastly blunder number 3.
The former Arsenal man has turned cold towards the Seattle Sounders and is "exploring options." It appears that he maybe seeking a way out of the MLS.
Ljungberg last played for the Sounders on July 4th in their loss against the Galaxy and then replaced by Miguel Montano for the FC Dallas fixture a week later. Ostensibly, an ankle injury was the reason. But he was back in training that week but once again did not make it for the DC United match. He was not seen in training this last weekend and it was understood he was given "time off"
The league's new arrivals got a huge boost from Ljungberg last season- he was one of the reasons for their stellar showing as the Sounders placed fourth overall and made the playoffs. He was the player of the month in October with four assists and was named to the MLS All Stars. The club's red hot streak and record breaking attendances were reasons for optimism that soccer has its market if key demographics are taken into consideration.
This season has been a movement in the opposite direction as the club struggles at the bottom. One has this feeling that Ljungberg felt he was a cut above the rest and resented being lumped in with the rest for the club's poor performances. He's looked disinterested and his playmaking abilities have dried up. The club's management has indicated that roster changes are on their way as the transfer window opens up. Ljungberg's contract runs out in November which means that he could legitimately seek work elsewhere right now.
A note here. The club shows it means business when they put DP's like Ljungberg on the dock. One of the quickest way of dispelling the "retirement" or "Mickey Mouse" tags that hang over the MLS is to demand demand performances worthy of the money that they pay hand over fist to get these overseas recruits. Subsequent replacements will come with the realization that the league is not to be trifled with. If Ljungberg departs, the club then has the option of going in for more DPs with the freed up money.
This is open to debate but the South and Central American DPs have proved to be better bets than the ones from Europe. Hopefully, Thierry Henry can prove us wrong.
Check out the rest. Van Bommel is definitely a gift that keeps giving.
If you are per chance wondering what the Divine Ponytail is upto nowadays - he is studying to be a coach in Florence. Right now he is undergoing basic training which will finish August 6th under a course organized by AICA, the players union.
As with Baggio, his demeanour and humility had everyone talking and taking autographs of the legend. In the world of instant retribution and Nigel De Jong like tactics, Baggio's Zen spirit seems a world apart and much needed.
The former Ballon D'Or winner might make a very good coach - ask Phil Jackson who used Buddhist principles to bring the Chicago Bulls and the Lakers so much success.
Germany won against France in the U20 Women's World Cup and in an eerie deja vu, a goal similar to that of Frank Lampard was disallowed as the referee and her linesman failed to see the ball cross the line. Germany won by the same score line, 4-1.
The disallowed goal proved costly as the French failed to advance on goal difference over Colombia.
Meanwhile, the FIFA overlords still dither on common sense technology. Really, Sepp Blatter - this is getting beyond ridiculous.
The two players spent 7 hours in custody and charged by the judicial magistrate Andre Dando with having sex with an underage prostitute, Zahia Dehar. If the investigation proves that they knew she was below 17 years of age then Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema could potentially face three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros.
Zahia D., divulged in her Paris Match interview in April that Ribery and Benzema both were aware that she was a minor when she met them in 2008. Ribery actually paid for her to visit him when he was at Bayern as part of his birthday celebrations. His lawyer maintains that he was unaware of her age and he had no way of knowing she was a minor because "she did not look like a minor."
However, investigators are trying to ascertain whether he was the one who bought the ticket because if he did, then he would be aware of her date of birth.
Andre Dando can hear both players as witnesses if he believes that there appears to be serious and consistent evidence against them.
What does this mean for both players. Actually if one has to go by the words of the Sports Minister, Roselyne Bachelot then even indictment should be enough to disqualify them from ever representing France. However, Bernard Laporte, the former Sports Minister framed it in morally relative terms. He criticised the attention given the allegations. "We make things very important which are perhaps not all that important. He [Ribéry] hasn't killed anyone ... I don't believe in a severe punishment."
Laurent Blanc has a monumental task ahead of him.
Löw renews till Euro 2012 which should come as a great relief to all football lovers, not just fans of the Mannschaft.
Cem alerts us to the possibility of Martin Jol staying on in Ajax.
The Dutch club promised more transfer funds which seems to have swayed Jol.
Ajax is looking for some serious money from the sale of Gregory Van Der Wiel and Luis Suarez, two of the hottest prospects in the transfer market. Previously, the club rejected the possibility of new signings but with Jol's Fulham overtures, they appear to have backtracked and opened up the possibility of suitable replacements.
Spurs clamp down on the wind section. Arsenal follow suit. The world turns cold to the vuvuzelers and we can look forward to the wonderful, witty world of football chants once again.
"He dribbles, he scores, we score, on our Marouane-ah. We get high on our Marouane-ah, Marouane-ah, Marouane- ah" (chant to Yellow Submarine).
The Joe Cole move seems to have paid dividends. A sign of serious intent which seems to have satisfied Steven Gerrard enough to stay on and wage battle for the club to achieve Champions League status.
The gut feeling is that Fernando Torres will also stay as Liverpool have priced him out, leaving Javier Mascherano as the player most likely to join former boss Rafa Benitez.
Nice. Plus, the Emirates stands are also going to be renamed - part of the "Arsenalisation" of the club. Actually, they are reverting back to the names used in the Highbury days: Clock End, North Bank, East Stand, and West Stand.
Update: Thanks Harsh, for pointing out that the picture I had posted up earlier was one of the 2010 home colours. Correction made.
Nery Castillo the Mexican player with loads of talent and a history of prima donna-ish behaviour joins the MLS from Shakhtar Donetsk on loan.
He will play for the Fire. He is the second youngest DP to join in MLS history which in other circumstances could be considered a feather in the cap but Castillo brings considerable baggage.
Castillo if current career trajectory holds true will be the biggest bust in Shakhtar history. Unless they recoup the money somehow.
The Ukrainian club shelled out €20m to Olympiacos in 2007 to bring him over. He had just settled a long running feud with Rivaldo over playing minutes and was finally producing for the Greek club. Within the first few matches he had managed to alienate coach Mircea Lucescu by refusing to allow Cristiano Lucarelli, the regular penalty taker to take a penalty against another Ukrainian club side, taking it himself and missing. Lucescu on the incident:
" What Castillo did, from a professional point of view, I've never seen anything like it before in my whole life. There will be some measures taken against Castillo"
He was benched for the rest of the season. In the winter transfer, Castillo was loaned out to Man City, in a move that was partly funded by the player himself, in desperation to get some starting minutes. His City tenure was disastrous as he broke his shoulder in his third match and was unable to continue the rest of the season. His loan spell was not renewed at City and the next year he was once again on the move, this time to rivals Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.
Shakhtar are hoping that Castillo revives his career and the MLS buys him off. He comes without much match experience and possible match fitness over the last three years.
Castillo's ball control and pace has never been in doubt but he has a tendency to play for himself and is very temperamental. 2007 was his best year in the international limelight with his goalscoring exploits for Mexico in the Gold Cup and the Copa America. The Mexican fan base are all fired up for this one since Cuauhtemoc Blanco will not be returning. How Castillo fits into a decidedly blue collar team like the Fire with veteran players like Brian McBride and John Thorrington could be crucial to the club's fortunes.
Arsenal's pre-season began with a 4-0 thumping of Barnet with Andriy "I am leaving for Barca" Arshavin opening the scoring.
The best player was Jake Wilshere responsible for assisting in both Jay Simpson goals. Samir Nasri rounded off the scoring. Rosicky, Gibbs, and Emmanuel Frimpong also had a good match.
Both new Arsenal transfers also got a look in. Both Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny looked sharp although according to Arseblog, Koscielny could do with some brawn- he will need it against the likes of Drogba and Rooney.
As for the goalkeeper situation- currently Arsenal does not have a number 1 goalkeeper which is frankly worrisome. Manuel Almunia was unavailable down with a respiratory infection and Lukasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone and Wojciech Szczesny alternated duties. There have been nothing more than some rumblings about Mark Schwarzer.
Bruce Arena announces a 23 man roster against Man Utd.
2010 AT&T MLS All-Star Game against Manchester United on July 28 at Reliant Stadium in Houston (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, TeleFutura).
Goalkeepers (2): Donovan Ricketts (LA Galaxy), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders (7): Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Wilman Conde (Chicago Fire), Kevin Alston (New England Revolution)
Midfielders (9): Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto FC), Marco Pappa (Chicago Fire), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus Crew), Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union), David Ferreira (FC Dallas), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids)
Forwards (5): Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Juan Pablo Angel (New York Red Bulls), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Jaime Moreno (D.C. United)
Brian Ching and Jaime Moreno were included as Don Garber's choices.
No Sounders were picked because on the same night they begin their CONCACAF Champions League campaign. Last year against Everton, there were four- Kasey Keller, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Fredy Montero, and Freddie Ljungberg.
This year has been far unkinder to the club as they struggle at the bottom of the Western Conference table. Only Chivas have a worse record.
Only Landon Donovan, Chad Marshall, Wilman Conde, Brad Davis, and Brian Ching return. Kyle Beckerman was forced to withdraw because of injury.
See Selwyn's previous report here >>
We should all feel immense pride and give thanks that we all shared in the joy of witnessing the first FIFA World Cup in Africa. The explosion of colour, the vuvuzela soundtrack, the majestic stadiums and so much more. All combined to give us a month of sporting celebration. Great credit and congratulations should go out to everyone involved in the hosting of a successful tournament. South Africa has arrived on the global scene, despite the naysayers.
My ultimate dream of an African team winning the cup didn't materialise but we still have much to celebrate and well done to all the African teams who participated.
Congratulations to Spain, new World champions, not only for winning the cup but also for trying to play good football. The Dutch team has great players but on the day they didn't play to their traditions.
Much has been made of refereeing decisions in the tournament but ultimately the governing body needs to get real and finally introduce the technology that will help the refs to make the correct decisions. The stakes in the game are so high now that I think it's wrong to give such a big responsibility to the refs who are only human. I believe the technology is already here, it just needs the powers that be to get their fingers out before the next major tournament.
Several of the so called "big" teams fell at the first hurdle but I don't think that's such a bad thing. The so called "small" teams have been catching up for a while now and as I said in my 1st blog at the end of the day it's 11 against 11 and the teams who want it more often prevail (bad decisions permitting!).
To the cynics who predicted failure I say it's time you all woke up and start showing some respect to Africa. The future is bright, there's much to be done but this was a great beginning.
Viva Africa, maximum respect South Africa, Hail Madiba!!
England's most creative player and Fabio Capello afterthought, Joe Cole is being lured to Liverpool with the promise of £90,000-a-week. Spurs are also wooing him too and it may come down to Cole's priorities - be a part of rebuilding Liverpool or seek Champions League participation?
Rafa Benitez left Liverpool without completing his legacy but the man who he leaves behind Pep Segura has been charged with bringing Barcelona's philosophy to Merseyside.
Segura is the former technical director of La Masia, the feeder school for the Blaugrana where young players eat, breathe, and sleep tiki taka - the intricate pattern of rapid fire short passing that provides the underpinning to the Barca/ Spanish game. Another La Masia transplant Rodolfo Borrell, is Liverpool's U18 coach which ensures that this change in Liverpool's game comes from the bottom up.
Frank McParland, Liverpool academy's director:
As MacParland admits, Liverpool's "coaching set-up now is the same as at Barcelona". In weekly meetings, Segura communicates to his staff what they should concentrate on during the next seven days' sessions. Each age group is taught the same principles, trained according to the same model.
The world wakes up to tiki taka. As is with a successful system, the next steps are adoption and adaptation.
This is a huge development and Liverpool, as English as one can get, with its traditional "boot and run" might see Anfield a carpet of short, lateral passing and 1-0 scores in the near future. So be it- we see how effective it has proved. And it is not just Liverpool but other clubs that will feel the La Masia imprint. Sandro Rosell, Barca's president has plans to open up 15 such academies all over the world.
All indications are Martin Jol is heading back to the Premiership.
The former Spurs manager who presently coaches Ajax has been in negotiations with the Cottagers and he maybe announced as manager by the end of the week. Other contenders for the Fulham job included national team coaches like Sven Goran Eriksson (Ivory Coast), Ottmar Hitzfeld (Switzerland), and Bob Bradley (USA).
Jol was quite successful at Spurs and in his second season (2005- 06) almost led them to a fourth placed finish but on the last day needing a win against West Ham, ten Spurs came down with Lasagna Diarrhea in one of the most bizarre episodes of food poisoning.
A listless Spurs team lost against West Ham while Arsenal, the team they were hoping to displace trumped Wigan, 4-2 to sneak into fourth place. Conspiracy theorists suspected Arsene-ic and Old Lace but investigations proved inconclusive.
Fabio Capello is embarrassed. The Capello Index has turned sour for the England coach after the team was dumped out unceremoniously by Germany. Who can vouch for an index that bears his name? It is like calling it the Bernie Madoff Index of Business Integrity.
"The index was published without Mr Capello's knowledge and his representatives have taken immediate steps to have the material taken down," read an FA statement.
The Capello Index is a good index if you want to measure impact per match. It is very "event" driven which is why it is also heavily weighted towards event drivers like goalscorers and goalkeepers. Which is why it is unreliable when it comes to picking your World Cup XI because it really does not give the "complete picture". It is at best a snapshot, at its worst it is totally at odds with a coaches philosophy.
Lets take for example - Carles Puyol in the semi-finals whose header against Germany was immense. The index ranks him 2nd amongst the semi-finalists with a score of 67.84. Hard to argue with that. His finals against Netherlands was less distinguished with fewer "events" to measure and he ends up 30th with a score of 58.54. Lower than that of Joris Mathijsen, Jerome Boateng, and Dennis Aogo. Giovanni von Bronckhorst's fall is even more spectacular from the semi-final to the final. Yet, these two always crop up as candidates to make the World Cup XI.
Want more schizophrenia with that puzzle?
Lets settle the debate over Andres Iniesta and Xavi? Against Germany, Xavi was far superior - ranking 5th, Iniesta places a distant 27th. But we remember Iniesta's goal in the finals and how he proved to be a livewire down the left channel against the Dutch. So, yes, unsurprisingly he ranks first by a considerable margin.
But the index is less kind to Xavi who has fallen to 24th position with Nigel De Jong in better position. We also remember the innumerable times the Dutch tried to disrupt Spain's passing game but the ball always found its way back to Xavi who reset the attack. He was the ONLY reason why Spain maintained a coherence right up to the last minute. An advantage fully exploited by Iniesta.
Lets take it further back, Xavi was the best player at the end of the group stages but by the time the round of 16 was finished he had retreated to 54th, his place taken by Carlos Tevez. He had retrenched somewhat to the 25th position by the end of the quarterfinals before moving to 5th by the end of the semi-finals. At the end of the finals he was once again obscure.
Even more bizarre is Andres Iniesta's movement. A respectable 8th place at the end of group stage, he is not even ranked amongst the best at the end of round of sixteen. He once again pops up on the 13th place at the end of quarterfinals zooming over Bastian Schweinsteiger and finally besting Nigel De Jong. The semi-finals saw him retreat to the 27th position before roaring back to the best player position at the end of the finals.
Did you know that Fernando Torres was in the top ten at the end of the quarterfinals, ranking 7th with 67 points enjoying a spotlight with Diego Forlan, Wesley Sneijder, Thomas Mueller, Miroslav Klose, and David Villa. So this trope of an underwhelming World Cup for the Liverpool striker is a relatively recent one - beginning after the quarterfinals. As per the Capello Index, Vicente Del Bosque made a serious mistake sitting him out in the semifinals. Aren't we glad it was published after the World Cup was over?
It becomes even more confusing when you look at the Castrol Index which does provide a more cumulative index. According to that Index - Spain's defenders take the top four spots plus Phillipp Lahm. Only Carles Puyol in the semi-final comes close to that ranking in the Capello index.
There are others - if you look carefully, some would land up in the doldrums and still others who would be on a drum roll making a mockery of national selections. It never really adds up to what the coach or the fan consider a gestalt. What you get are scatter plots without any pattern. As a predictor it would tell you little about Andres Iniesta being at the top of his class and it would treat Spain as a non-event. As a coach, Fabio Capello, should be the last one to recommend this sort of index as a sort of "objective measure", even for betting purposes.
Check it out and let me know what you think?
There is a reason why this man is called Socrates. One of the truly deep thinkers of the sport and its culture of all times.
Watching Socrates, Eder, Falcao, Zico in the 1982 World Cup, a team coached by Tele Santana was like watching a piece of art taking shape right in front of your eyes.
Socrates talks about the deadening of futebol - function over form, winning over creativity.
"Football is an art and players should be allowed to show creativity. If the coach gives freedom to the players to play the way they know how, they can do it."
"If [painters] Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas had known when they were doing their work the level of recognition that they were going to have, they would not have done them the same. You have to enjoy doing the art and not think 'will I win?'".
The 1982 and 1986 World Cup squads were exactly that. They never got the results that the CBF craved and the o jogo bonito died with them. That was when the pendulum shifted the other way. Dunga was part of that dour 1994 World Cup team with some interspersed vestiges of beauty which won them the World Cup. The foot soldier and his future coaching philosophy found roots in those Tele Santana losses. Sixteen years later, we see Brazil in the creative crossroads. Does it go on in its present state - preferring function, or in a volte face find form?
A Utopian solution would be to find a happy medium between the two. In the present squad we have the potential to do just that. There were moments when we saw glimpses of stardust - Kaka almost scoring off a piece of sparkling skill from Robinho and Luis Fabiano against Netherlands. However, the overall philosophy has been to cut down on the showboating moments. Deference is the Dunga way of doing things.
A player like Ronaldinho would have to devote himself to the team, fitness, and discipline. Dunga understood the need for blue collared workers on the field which is his legacy. The toilers are indispensable. There is no going back to the days of Zico and Socrates but there should also be no days going forward to Felipe Melo and Gilberto. Somewhere in between, my friends. Somewhere in between. That is the key. Bring back Big Phil Scolari. It rhymes too.
Socrates is in London right now, part of the Lit Fest speaking as a cultural commentator on Futebol and Brasil. Would have loved to be part of that greatness but hopefully he can come to NY and impart his wisdom in the near future.
Nike would have us believe that Rooney,with all his dreams of knighthood,of having babies named after him, of beating Roger Federer in table tennis and of getting a hug from the queen all shattered and in smoke and ashes headed off to live in a caravan somewhere in England,where he grew a beard and then proceeded to eke out a meagre existence drawing lines in chalk on some football field.Not true.He is instead currently making history by becoming the highest-paid player in the history of Manchester United. He is set to overtake Cristiano Ronaldo's 120,000-a-week compensation, while he was at Manchester United, to earn around £130,000-a-week.
Really. England is heading for another disaster if this is the sort of scouting report that Fabio Capello comes up with. On the other hand this could be the best antidote to compulsive gambling.
The two central defenders Matthew Upson and John Terry come up with over 60 (60.21/ 60.48) in his index. After their drubbing against Germany, you would think their scores would sink to subterranean levels. Ashley Cole who had a pretty decent World Cup relative to the rest scores less (59.58).
So, naturally, one would think that Upson's goal really pushed his scores up. Not if you were Diego Forlan.
Forlan might have won the Golden Ball but Jermain Defoe will be delighted to know his one goal in his Slovenia appearance puts him in the same league. (65.77/62.47). See, if Defoe had not been an afterthought, we would have been talking about a different Golden Ball winner.
The problem with these indexes is that there is a sort of equalizing function within these different weightages (assists/passes/goals/tackles). If taken seriously, these indexes could wreak havoc with a players career. But you still need scouts on the ground to really assess a players performance.
Capello does himself no favours with these sort of "objective" measures. One would actually like to see him evaluate younger talent the right way.
Now that the Maradona menace is out of the picture Messi is back to doing what he does best - scoring hat tricks.This one came in a charity game called the Leo Messi and Friends vs Rest of the World Game.It was to raise money for impoverished people of Panama.Incidentally there was another hat trick in the game.Panamanian striker Blas Pérez scored three goals for the rest of the world.Messi's team won 6-4.
Toronto fans by and large gave the Man U pre season friendly a miss.Berbatov,who has spent most of the previous season giving the opposite goal a miss,actually made his presence felt for a change,scoring one and assisting in two others.
Marouane Chamakh, Laurent Koscielny, and bucket loads on the Fabregas transfer saga but otherwise its been deader than a doorknob. What happened to all the promise to bring some more star power? We are still going after 17 year olds - wait, isn't Franck Ribery in hot water for something similarly statutory.
The Cottagers are still looking for a coach with Alan Curbishley turning them down and now Bob Bradley is the name mentioned the most.
Fulhamerica's long association with the US national team is already well established. But Bob Bradley? A coach who built his cache in the hitherto insular world of US soccer - coaching varsity teams, MLS clubs like Chivas, and now the US national team in a career spanning over two decades.
To get into the Premiership which ranks as the toughest in the world at this late a stage? Even Roy Hodgson whose replacement the Cottagers seek had to globe trot to get to his place in the Premiership.
Just one point, Bradley did not get the US team up to speed for a full 90 minutes and they suffered mental lapses of the sort giving up ridiculously cheap goals in the opening minutes - that is one of the biggest knocks on his resume. The US took the opportunity to turn in some scintillating comebacks but that cannot be credited to the coaching. Fulham might be a more unforgiving place- English fans do not hold back. Still it is flattering to find yourself as conjecture for the title of the first US coach of a club in the top European leagues.
City's spending bender to a Premiership title continued unabated. Lazio accepted their £17m for their highly rated left wing back Aleksandar Kolarov.
He was last seen in Serbia's World Cup campaign where he did little of note on a team that did little of note.
He has been compared to Roberto Carlos with his booming free kicks and bombing runs. Which jeopardizes Wayne Bridge's tenure at City.
City has already signed Jerome Boateng, the weakest link in the German defense, David Silva who had an undistinguished World Cup in Spain's history making and Yaya Toure who joins brother Kolo to give a fraternal feel to the City backfield.
Having said all this, if Roberto Mancini finds himself in a similar spot with City a few months down the line like last season with a series of dreary draws- he will find himself out the door. The bare minimum is a Champions League spot.
Both AS and Marca are reporting that Real are close to signing Sami Khedira who did such a outstanding job filling in as a replacement for Michael Ballack in central midfield.
The transfer fee is what is being sorted out- VfB Stuttgart his present club want 13 million and Real have countered with an 8 million bid. The negotiations are being carried out in great secrecy with the player and his agent pretending he is on vacation in Spain.
Behind the daily parade of Barca players who talk about Cesc Fabregas return to Barca in the emotional terms of a homecoming or a Homeric saga - is the fact that Barca might not be able to afford him.
They took out a bank loan to cover player and employee wages and they have now set themselves a transfer limit of 50 million euros. Still healthy and far more than about 95% of the clubs - including Arsenal.
But with the Gunners digging their heels and rejecting a 35 million euro bid, the margin for landing him are getting slim. Sandro Rosell, the new Barca president has warned that the club will need to put into place "austerity measures". Other indications are shifting priorities- Pep Guardiola maybe targeting Juan Mata of Valencia. Even Sergio Busquets seems to accept that landing Fabregas might be very difficult.
The Red Bulls are looking for a third DP and this time it is a central midfielder - not a creative playmaker as Hans Backe, the Red Bulls coach hinted.
Rafa Marquez's future at Barcelona is looking a bit murky. He still has two years on his contract but indications are that the doors to his departure have opened up. With Barca using Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol almost exclusively Marquez's minutes have been limited. He has adapted as a holding midfielder but Sergio Busquets is now Pep Guardiola's first choice.
Guardiola is also grooming Andreu Fontas from the B squad for an increased presence in the senior squad which could see Marquez fall further in the depth chart.
Marquez's minutes have also been curtailed due to an torn meniscus that needed surgery last year and has kept him out. The Mexican international may be the perfect man to join former Barca team mate Thierry Henry to hold the Red Bulls midfield.
Biggest reason: Thierry "Titi" Henry is not hyped as the saviour of the MLS. When you manage expectations better things happen. He comes here to win a title for the NY Red Bulls, not to be an Alexi Lalas ordained saviour of the sport.
One good thing, unlike Beckham's contract which itself became a raging talking point with its potential to earn hundreds of millions of dollars through endorsements - competing with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Tiger Woods was seen as a sort of corollary to MLS success. Titi comes on a more subdued four and a half years on undisclosed terms. We are not talking about it, not as yet.
He is also healthy and injury free. There are no questionable ankle/knees/heels which twist or give out before the first match. The man can still shoot goals. Discount Titi's disappointing last season at Barca, and you get a very impressive 31 strikes in 59 matches.
Mind you, he was competing with Leo Messi at his most devastating, the highly touted Zlatan Ibrahimovic and younger, hungrier strikers in Bojan and Pedro. Yet, he still remained productive in the best club in the world.
He has retired from international soccer. There is no danger running to Barca or Arsenal on loan to fulfill a coach's criteria for national selection and returning to the MLS mid season - causing team mates through third party sources to question commitment and fans to lash out. There is no computation of continental miles affecting performance or saving himself for certain matches. The focus is entirely on the club and league. That is not true for Beckham who is now focused on Euro 2012.
Titi is not a perpetual brand or paparazzi target. It is soccer and not an underwear that defines him. This is not a step into landing advertising campaigns selling more jockstraps or to be featured in People magazine hobnobbing with Scientologists with impulse control issues in high falutin' Hollywood soirees.
Some other more subtle reasons that could factor. He comes at a time when the USA has woken to the national team. Landon Donovan's World Cup form is driving attendances through the roof for the LA Galaxy. There is a buzz generated in soccer which is driving a market of fence sitters.
What soccer needs are good old fashioned rivalries- the sort that the West Coast has been adept at. We can look forward to the LA Galaxy coming to NY bringing in record attendances. But Titi could expand the East Coast rivalries which has been limited to DC United and New England Revs. Some tetchiness between NY and New England could see the soccer version of MLB making it a prize ticket.
New York itself needs a bit of good cheer with LeBron James ditching the city for Miami- so having an international star swallowing those dastardly tax rates and coming to NY fills a void, albeit in a smaller way. Plus, if the Knicks do need help, Thierry Henry can lend them a "hand". Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. But seriously, other than baseball which is sacrosanct in NY and successful, all other sports have proved disillusioning. There are a lot of disenchanted fans who could be tempted into attending soccer matches.
Thierry Henry also benefits to a larger extent from having a better crossover into other sports, especially basketball. Steve Nash and Tony Parker are good friends and are actually outspoken advocates for developing soccer in the USA. This association can be potentially parlayed into attracting wider audiences for the sport.
Here is Beckham talking about Thierry Henry's NY move amongst other things including his fashion sense >>
A compilation of Titi to whet your appetite >>
Thierry Henry has been coming to NY for a long time as a tourist and as part of Steve Nash's summer challenge. Takes a pretty sticky question on the French performance in the World Cup and manages quite well. Dodges the racial issue.
He also teams up with Juan Pablo Angel, who he knows from his Villa days in what could be potentially the MLS's most explosive attack. He also spoke to former Arsenal winger, Freddie Ljungberg now with Seattle Sounders about his move. Drops hints of more players coming to the MLS. Gives a little speech at the end thanking Barca for his years spent there.
A government enquiry has been launched to investigate the great south african french disaster.Meanwhile Nicolas Anelka is saying that actually the French team was totally united..
Nicholas Anelka speaks. It seems he was the fall guy for what transpired in South Africa- it could have been anyone.
"If it hadn't been me that brought everything to a head, it would have been someone else. It was a timebomb waiting to explode."
Pompey had to turn to Balram Chainrai to pay salaries to their employees and players. It's nice to know that Spanish banks do that for you. Isn't there an economic crisis there?
One of the worst defeats in Argentinian World Cup history was not enough to persuade the AFA to give El Diego the boot. He has been retained as coach for the 2014 World Cup.
Actually this says more about the AFA and its toadying president Julio Grondona who has politicized everything from the broadcasting of the league games to kowtowing to the Argentinian PM, Cristina Kirchher's demand that Maradona be retained.
It's all based on sucking up electoral votes for the embattled national party and less on any actual sound football philosophy. Meanwhile, Paraguay and Chile under Argentinian coaches who provide not just inspiration but also tactics have a much brighter future.
The criminal misuse of Leo Messi:
Leo Messi had his best game against Nigeria- that was because he actually played in his position and was well supported by Juan Sebastian Veron. It was only a brilliant Vincent Enyeama who kept Messi from scoring.
Without Veron in the South Korea match, Messi was pushed back deeper beyond the halfline but his solo runs down the left channel found a clinical finisher in Gonzalo Higuain. Against Greece with Veron returning, Messi was back in familiar territory and playing in the opponents half. With the group stage taken care off- Maradona decided he would go for broke.
Taking off Veron and putting Tevez in a three forward set and wide players in Di Maria and Maxi Rodriguez - he increased the workload on Mascherano who now had a huge swath of territory to take care of as the lone holding midfielder. Now, Masch can tackle but he has never been mistaken for a creative presence, as a result Messi was pushed deeper to retrieve the ball to get to more advantageous positions.
The result a helter sketer Messi running into a group of forewarned Mexicans. The Argentinians can consider themselves fortunate against El Tri who were sunk by a refereeing blunder and an moment of madness. But they carried the warning signs against Germany and Maradona again failed to make the necessary adjustments. The result was a black hole in the center as Mascherano was forced to run and defend leaving Messi to start well beyond the half line which suited the Germans just fine.
Maradona's problem is that he has not evolved beyond 1986 and his predestined successor (there have been many, presently it is Messi) is supposed to do exactly what he did in Mexico. Benign neglect can be considered criminal- Messi needed tactics and support. If Argentina wants a mascot by all means take Maradona but he will never be mistaken for a coach.
MRI scans show Fernando Torres has ruptured his adductor muscles and it is feared that he will miss the first month of the Premiership. The Liverpool striker needs three weeks of rest and then will undergo an isolated training program.
The injury is described as a grade 1 adductor rupture which means that Torres might have torn about 10% of his muscle fiber. Adductor strains (groin strains/ pulls) are quite common in soccer players- about a 7% incidence. In Grade 1 injuries:
An athlete may be able to have a normal gait, but would have pain on any increase in the intensity or speed of movement (moving from a light jog to a sprint).
This requires 3 weeks away from any sporting activity. Initially conventional physical therapy measures includes lots of ice and compression to control swelling and pain.
Next, gentle stretching exercises, tissue mobilization, and heat are added to regain the full range of motion and prevent tightness/ muscle spasm before any active exercise regime can be considered. By the 3rd week, rehabilitation includes adding lunges and plyometrics before moving to sport specific skills.
It could be the end of August/ early September before Torres takes the field. He also has to be careful because adductor strains if not properly healed can become chronic.
The most visible face of El Roja Furia announced his retirement from international duty.
Carles Puyol will not play against Mexico in the August 11th fixture telling Vicente Del Bosque and Fernando Hierro that it would "mentally and physically exhausting" to combine national as well as Liga duty. Another 19 matches and he would have made a century of appearances.
Puyol has been heroic for Spain. What he gave up in speed, he made up for in gut busting endeavour.
The goal against Germany and then grappling with Arjen Robben with an arm draped around the Netherlands striker to save a goal. Two of the more iconic moments in this World Cup. He debuted for Spain in 2000 against the Netherlands (fitting that he should end with them too) and was capped 81 times.
He will be missed.
Man Utd is on its USA and Canada tour and are in Chicago at the present moment.
Ryan Giggs just said something that can be considered very, very interesting.
"Becks is probably the biggest footballer worldwide and he's still playing for England's national team so it's hard not to respect the quality of MLS."
And a bit further down:
"Being in America you have a great lifestyle - good for raising a family - and the play is getting better."
Ryan Giggs in the MLS? Now, that would be a coup again. Older yes, but he can still outwit with his guile and free kicks. And with Giggsy, you can expect total commitment and less star hangups. Get on the phone, Don Garber.
New York Red Bulls fans are in for a treat this season.
Titi Henry has signed for the MLS club on a multi year deal and will be unveiled tomorrow. For those curious to know when he will be in action- he is about to take on Spurs on July 22nd at Red Bull Arena. That should be like old times, right? Nothing like Spurs to get those old Arsenal juices flowing again - this time in a Red Bulls shirt.
"This marks an exciting new chapter in my career and life," Henry said. "It is an honor to play for the New York Red Bulls. I am fully aware of the team's history and my sole goal during my time here is to help win the club its first championship. Knowing Red Bull's significant commitment to soccer locally and internationally, I am confident that my teammates and I will succeed."
He still has those legs. East Coast vs West Coast? That rivalry will have an edge now.
It is looking increasingly likely that Ashley Cole will be playing for Real Madrid this season. The Merengues are reportedly willing to offer a £30million bid for him.
If he goes, he will re-unite with Jose Mourinho, responsible for bringing him to Chelsea in the infamous "tapping" case. Iker Casillas was quite bullish about Cole's prospects:
Spain stopper Casillas, 29, added: "A clean break from England is hopefully something he is very interested in.
"It will be his last big contract and who better to sign for than his old coach Mourinho at Real.
For Cole, this move might be out of necessity. He is increasingly out of sorts with an English public not taking kindly once his tweet saying he hated the country and its people came to light. A split with ex-wife Cheryl has also turned sour.
He'll get better wages, pay less taxes, what else can Cole want? He may have to be wary about the public though. There is a bit more racism in Spain to contend with as both Cole and Shaun Wright Phillips know.
We could make this easy- throw in the Spanish, the Germans, and Diego Forlan. But here is my World Cup XI picks. Remember this is a sort of subjective opinion of the best players, so what their team accomplished although influential, has less bearing. We could have put the whole Spanish defense in because they obviously won the World Cup but that's not the point.
Manuel Neuer (goalkeeper: Germany): Not even his country's first choice, Neuer had a flawless World Cup. He was calm, collected, showed great reflexes and fantastic ball distribution. Germany's quick counterattacking style had much to do with Neuer's ability to pick out the best player to carry the ball forward. John Terry found that out much to England's detriment. Neuer beats out Iker Casillas purely on this strength. And yes, he also made some pretty great saves against Serbia and Spain. Both losses but not because of him.
Fabio Coentrao (left back, Portugal): Anyone following Benfica should be familiar with his name. On a Portugese team that seemed devoid of endeavour except for that North Korea game, Coentrao made these bombing runs down the left and whipping in quality crosses to Hugo Almeida. He was also very quick at tracking back and showed he could tackle and make timely clearances. Ashley Cole came with a bigger reputation but really did not do justice.
John Mensah (right center back, Ghana): Powerful and battling. Mensah was out there in full force matching the Germans and the Uruguayans in defensive intensity. It took an inspired goal by Mesut Oezil and a spectacular free kick by Diego Forlan to bypass that obdurate heart of the Ghanaian defense. Against Uruguay, Mensah neutralized Luis Suarez and made Germany feel Klose's absence. He may have missed that PK but Mensah gave Ghana's defense the shape and discipline against their higher flying opponents.
Madjid Bougherra (left center back, Algeria): A surprising choice. But Boughie was a rock in a decidedly underwhelming Algeria team. Go beyond Algeria's first round exit and you will see why Algeria ground England to a draw and made USA sweat agonizingly for one of their most famous wins. He won all his tackles. Cleared the ball out of danger effectively and used his height and physicality to disrupt the fast running Americans and neutralize Wayne Rooney. No wonder they love him at Rangers.
Jorge Fucile (right back, Uruguay): One tough uncompromising dude. Does anyone remember him flying through the air and landing sickeningly on his head? That was a scary, scary moment but Fucile was up within moments and battling the Mexicans. He shut down the left against the Germans and forced them to go right to win third place. Fucile will never be mistaken for a goalscorer like Maicon but for general all round disruption, running end to end, chasing balls, and saving a goal through a timely tackle - he is your man.
Xabi Alonso (center midfielder, Spain): He continues to show why Liverpool miss him- Alonso also showed why you don't have to be Mark Van Bommel to successfully hold midfield. A disciplined presence anchored in the center of midfield, Alonso proved to be a seamless relay between the backfield and supporting Xavi, the creative engine of the Spanish midfield. Not afraid of letting fly from distance, he provided the Netherlands with a clear choice - his clean, hard tackling.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (center midfielder, Germany): Schweini was a peripatetic midfielder, roaming through the length and the breadth of the pitch, involved with virtually every aspect of attack and defense- providing the assists for Mueller and Klose to pick apart Argentina. Probably his finest match. Running tirelessly for almost 80 km in his six matches he forged a tight relationship with Thomas Mueller, Mesut Oezil, and Sami Khedira. Not shy with his tackles either and amongst the better defenders in this World Cup.
Thomas Mueller (right attacking midfielder, Germany): Sensational World Cup for this barely 21 year old. Five goals, three assists. The world became familiar with the figure of the lanky Bayern Munich striker flying in from the right to administer the coup de grace on England and Argentina. Gerd Muller said it best: "The lad has everything. He's quick, he shoots with both feet, he's good in the air, and he makes terrific runs down the channels. He's a quick thinker, he reads the game well, and he has that precious nose for goal."
Xavi (centre attacking midfielder, Spain): Passer extraordinaire. The man who symbolizes tiki taka, controls the cadence and the pace of a match like Herbert Von Karajan. It may take some time but Xavi will pick apart that defense with a precise pass. Against Netherlands, each time the Spanish attack got thrown off under intimidation, there was Xavi resetting the attack. He is one of the great Barcelona number 4's but his evolution as an attacking midfielder is the real story. Against Netherlands 97 passes with 90 accurate. 15 deliveries into the penalty box. With Xavi around, there is always a chance that you will win.
Andres Iniesta (left attacking midfielder, Spain): Silky smooth, fantastic ball control. Iniesta may cut a slight, pale figure but he can glide effortlessly around those big defenders on that left channel. And yes, he seems to have a nose for the big moment- against Chelsea last year in the CL semi-final and now against the Netherlands. Great first touch to control that Fabregas pass and boom the ball sent rocketing past Stekelenberg breaking Dutch hearts. Great comeback too from an injury plagued season at Barca.
Diego Forlan (centerforward/ attacking midfielder/ second striker, Uruguay): The story on Diego Forlan was that he was a fox in the box and during his Man Utd days, not a particularly good one. But this was not a Gary Lineker type of opportunism- this was a player who was dazzling in his array of attacking skills. Free kicks, corners, volleys, sizzling open field shots, and assist man. He did it in the penalty box, he did outside the penalty box. And he won't be at Atletico much longer either.
On the bench:
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Spain), Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria)
Defenders: Maicon (Brazil), Carles Puyol (Spain), Paulo Da Silva (Paraguay), Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (Netherlands)
Midfielders: Keisuke Honda (Japan), Landon Donovan (USA), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), Mark Van Bommel (Netherlands)
Strikers: David Villa (Spain), Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
What are your choices?
Octopus Paul is landing a few big gigs after his eight for eight prediction.
The Oracle of Oberhausen is all set to make an appearance in the Bigg Boss TV series in India, which is based on the UK's Big Brother where housemates are voted off.
According to Bild, producers of the TV show have approached the Oberhausen aquarium, to make arrangements for Paul to be shipped to India every week to make his predictions.
From thereon? Bollywood beckons and Octopus Paul might do hot item numbers tangling with Bipasha Basu and Jhingi Jhingawalla.
In addition, he was also made a honorary Spanish citizen. Which gets him an inside track to Pedro Almodovar - so look out for "Tie me up, time me down: Part 2" or "Life without a Spine"
Alexander Osang's article in Der Speigel highlights the new German football- attractive, full of flair and invention, with a multicultural face that captured the nation and won followers all around the world.
In that same article, he also talks about how Michael Ballack's agent Michael Becker makes explosive allegations that there is "a gay combo" that defines German football today. Osang had interviewed Becker prior to the World Cup and
When I asked him whether he thought that a player whose nomination to the team had come as something of a surprise was gay, Becker said: "He's half-gay."
Forget about that term. What Becker means by "half gay" is unimportant but it is enough of a slur to suggest that Ballack was the only man in a group of untested boys. This is important in the context of the former Chelsea midfielder's waning influence. The first one to go are the agents. Becker was ensuring that Ballack remained in his stable with his bit of neuroses.
A bit of irony there because while he was making these homophobic remarks, he was also proudly telling the writer that Elton John had performed at Ballack's wedding.
In the long term, the Spain loss might have resurrected Ballack's national career. Suddenly, the absence of the captain became front and center after being overshadowed by the new brand of "pleasing to the eye" football. This became evident in the media interviews that followed:
"Someone said that the Germans also need a player who's capable of kicking somebody once in a while."
The loss was deflating to this young German team.
" For a moment, everything that had been so romantic about the German team had evaporated. The beauty, the ease, the dance-like quality suddenly belonged to the Spaniards. It isn't easy to be a new German man, but it certainly plays well in the rest of the world."
Becker's allegations have sparked reactions across the football fraternity in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen, Ballack's new club expressing shock at these remarks. Joachim Löw also came out against it while the DFB refused to wade into the controversy. The article highlights a serious taboo that still exists in the football world.
If you have not already read it.
Two bombs went off in the Ugandan capital of Kampala on Sunday while people were watching the World Cup finals, killing 74 and wounding hundreds of others.
An Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group in Somalia claimed responsibility- in retaliation for Uganda and Burundi contributing to the UN peacekeeping force stationed there.
The same group Al Shabab also banned the playing of soccer and the broadcasting of the World Cup in the areas under its control. Last month, five people were killed and scores arrested by the militants for watching the World Cup. The group considers soccer "un-Islamic" and "a Satanic act".
Read about how the Somalian Football Federation's program Put down your Gun, Pick up the Ball has been successful in persuading child soldiers to leave the armies of Somalian warlords and terrorist organizations like Al Shabab and Hizbul Islam.
From the Guardian's Datablog
• 3547 - Spain have now made more successful passes in a world cup than any team since 1966
- Possession: Spain 62.9% Netherlands 37.1%
- Passing accuracy: Spain 84.2% Netherlands 69%
Xavi vs Wesley Sneijder:
- Xavi: 97 total passes/ 90 accurate/92.8% accuracy, 57 forward half passes/ 79.2% accuracy, 5 passes for goal attempts
- Sneijder: 37 passes/ 21 accurate/ 78.4% accuracy, 21 forward half passes/ 70% accuracy, 2 passes for goal attempts
Spain was better at tackling too. Sergio Busquets won all his six tackles.
Johan Cruyff speaks:
"This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style, yes it served the Dutch to unsettle Spain. If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they ended up losing. They were playing anti-football."
Rinus Michels probably weeps in his grave.
Meanwhile, Howard Webb comes under fire but lets give him a break shall we?
This was not an easy final to officiate with the Dutch doing everything to intimidate Spain. Van Bommel and De Jong survived- otherwise the Dutch could have been down to nine men for most part of the match. Arjen Robben's grouse that Carles Puyol was holding him back was legitimate but Webb applied the advantage rule.
When Eric Wynalda makes more sense than Richard Williams, you begin to wonder. But people like Williams have a platform to spout utter rubbish.
Read his smarmy article to realize why England will never win another World Cup. They really do not get good football out there- sad to see a country that gave the world the sport and now it has utterly bypassed them.
Anyways, I accept Johan Cruyff's indictment rather than someone who ends his article with "The players of England, France and Italy, who left the tournament in disrepute and humiliation, must have been watching on their holiday islands and having a good giggle."
Tanja Munzig, a spokeswoman for the Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen, said that Paul had decided to end his career as CEO ( Clairvoyant Extraordinary Octopus) of the place.
He waved a cheerful 8 armed goodbye to the gathered crowd of weeping punters ( who had won half a million pounds between them during the tournament by placing bets based on the octopus's predictions) and went back to his tank to do whatever Octopuses do to pass the time.
PS: The rumour that Paul the Psychic octopus is a distant relative of the Goose that laid the golden eggs is something that is making bookmakers get all excited.
However it seems a bit unlikely.
This has been a brilliant World Cup for Thomas Muller who earned his first cap earlier this year against Argentina. Five goals and three assists. He is a deserved winner of the Golden Shoe and FIFA's Young Player title.
He had his illustrious namesake, Gerd singing his praises:
"The lad has everything. He's quick, he shoots with both feet, he's good in the air, and he makes terrific runs down the channels. He's a quick thinker, he reads the game well, and he has that precious nose for goal," Gerd 'Der Bomber' Muller told FIFA.com when quizzed about his heir apparent.
Only Pele at 17 years and 249 day-old was younger when he scored five goals in the 1958 World Cup.
Muller achieved this without playing against Spain- now which striker would not fancy their prospects going up against the eventual World Champions?
No quibbles with this choice. Diego Forlan was the best player this World Cup- that free kick against Ghana will be hard to forget.
" I'm enjoying it and I'm delighted, but I'm very aware that it's the result of the spectacular tournament the team has had. It's another reward for this positive period for Uruguayan football."
Spoken like a true champion.
We have a winner for whingeing. According to Wesley Sneijder the Dutch would not have been beaten if it had not been for Howard Webb's overtime performance. His laundry list of complaints:
Playing ten men down with Johnny Heitinga expelled in extra time, Carles Puyol should have been red carded, and Andres Iniesta's offside goal.
Spain can counter with red cards for Mark Van Bommel, Nigel de Jong, and a penalty for Xavi when Heitinga brought him down.
I have not been a role model to small children in the last hours, imbibing copious amounts of sangria and singing snatches of dirty Spanish songs. Now I am left with a empty ache and a hangover. Its all over. Thank you South Africa, and bollocks Des Kelly, this was one of the most absorbing World Cups.
What a game! A final between two heavyweights with Nigel De Jong providing a MMA moment. He should have been thrown out on his ear. Howard Webb did a fine job officiating except for that terrible moment. And the yellow cards- lets put it down to Mark Van Bommel's reputation preceding him.
Andres Iniesta was slippery and hard to bring down as the Dutch focused on Xavi. What a mistake, as he resurrected his role of the baby faced killer from that Chelsea match a year ago. St Iker- what can one say of the man. Absolutely brilliant in goal denying Arjen Robben when Spanish hearts stopped sickeningly. He kept them in the match for Iniesta to stick his knife in the 116th minute. In the end, the better team won deservedly. Spain, you play beautiful.
What has happened to Dutch football? Should David Winner write a sequel to his book - Brazen Orange: The Unrelenting Idiocy of Dutch Soccer. What I saw were eleven thugs on the field, some more than others.
Many have said this is the way the Dutch need to play to break that hex. Well, they didn't and they have left many including I, traditional supporters of Dutch football, shaking our heads. Wesley Sneijder had a great World Cup but his talents as a creative playmaker always a bit sketchy were exposed today. You saw Xavi resetting the attack - and you saw the heart and soul of this Spanish team.
Was it inspired or a touch of madness? Vicente Del Bosque took off Villa and introduced Fernando Torres. It provided the pivotal moment of the match as Torres perhaps realizing his shooting skills were a bit awry deferentially passed to Iniesta in a much better position to score. Possibly Villa would have tried taking on the defense and ended up with another scoring chance gone begging.
In another great substitution, Del Bosque took off Pedro for Cesc Fabregas. The lateral minded Spanish attack became more direct. As an Arsenal fan, I have seen Cesc provide moment after moment of brilliance. Having Xavi, Iniesta AND the Arsenal captain was a bit much for the Dutch. The last 15 minutes of the second half and extra time were all Spain with only Johnny Heitinga coming close for the Dutch.
Iniesta's goal honoured Espanyol captain Dani Jarque, tragically falling to a heart condition. I can think of no better tribute. The Dutch, sadly for them, came up empty handed a third time. Totaalvoetball to totaalnothingness. What must they do now?
What is this?
Thank goodness Spain won.
Even Cruyff was rooting for Spain.
And here's Ruud Gullit: "It was a terrible game. The Dutch must blame themselves."
For those not interested, or were not paying too much attention, there was a match yesterday to decide third and fourth spot.
Kind of fitting that the 2010 World Cup ended for Germany with another one of their young stars shining in its many big moments. Khedira's goal will be one of the bookends to the 2014 squad. But here are the other goals of an absorbing encounter. Mueller - Cavani- Forlan- Janssen.
As most of the world gets ready to watch the Spain Netherlands finale many may not know that there is another kind of football final also taking place nearby that is of a very different nature.
This final will take place in Alexandra, one of the city's poorest townships and a hotbed of protest during the apartheid years in South Africa.
Amid the corrugated iron shacks and slum housing, where the young Nelson Mandela once lived, two groups of teenagers will face off in the deciding match of "Football for Hope", a five-a-side tournament running alongside the World Cup.
Like the World Cup, 32 teams have taken part in the tournament in recent weeks.
But rather than playing for their countries, the players here are representing community groups from around the world that have one thing in common -- they all use football, in one way or another, to try to make the world a better place.
For example, there is a delegation from Cambodia that encourages children to play football, and then -- once it has their attention -- teaches them about the danger of land mines.
The magic of Football is being used to bring kids together and educate them about HIV and AIDS.
"The Peace Team" is from Israel and Palestine, and includes players from both communities. Other teams have come from Ireland and the Balkans, where they use football to unite children and heal sectarian and ethnic divisions.
Plenty of reasons there to remind us why the game is called "joga bonito"
It's a bit ironical seeing the Dutch take centerstage in South Africa for the world's biggest game. A record beaking 760 million will watch this twist on the colonizer and the colonized.
Less than two decades ago, South Africans had to sing a national anthem which was a paean to Dutch triumphalism and by extension the policy of apartheid (which is Afrikaan for separateness). Die Stem van Suid Afrika - The Call of South Africa was written by C.J. Langenhoven and the music was composed by Reverend Marthinus Lourens de Villiers in 1921.
Die Stem van Suid Afrika was disliked by black South Africans and with the dismantling of apartheid and the rise of the African National Congress, the anthem gave way to Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika with just the third stanza being retained.
Jan van Riebeeck and the Dutch East Indies Company are an inextricable part of South African history but today, the Rainbow Nation greets Netherlands - a name accepted by millions of people as one of the most progressive nations on the planet.
El Nino looked a trifle sharper in the Germany match coming off the bench.
Of course, one does not know if that was indeed true because the player who got the start over him decided to bypass him in a ball hogging moment. Pedro might have been playing for his future in the national team. El Nino might have scored a goal and made Vicente Del Bosque's decision easier for the final. But it did not happen and we are back to decision time.
Pedro over Torres in forcing errors:
Pedro is favoured to start after getting a slap on the wrist and he does bring his pace and ability to slip inside while all the attention is paid to David Villa. Plus, he has the ability along with Xabi Alonso to test Maarten Stekelenberg with some long range bombs. Which brings us to the Dutch goalie.
Although he brought off one of saves of this World Cup against Kaka, his goalkeeping has not been that assured - allowing Diego Forlan's goal in the Uruguay match and then failing to rush out to challenge Robinho against Brazil, making it easy for him to score. Those errors did not prove costly to Netherlands but it could be different against Spain which loves holding onto one goal leads and scoring last minute clinchers.
One should expect some more ambition from the Spanish attack given Stekelenberg's predilection for errors. Pedro looks sharper than Torres in this regard.
Not very good memories of the English referee officiating today's finals. Spain lost to Switzerland in a shocker on some very disputed calls by Howard Webb. Here is a recap of where Spain felt Webb got it wrong:
* Gelson Fernandes was in an offside position when he got the ball on a deflection from Derdiyok who was already on his way down with Pique just behind him. The resulting goal should have been annulled.
* Phillipe Senderos escaped two penalties when he clipped David Silva's ankle and on another occasion he pushes down David Villa after Sergio Ramos chips the ball into the box.
* Stephan Grichting should have received a red card for grabbing Iniesta as the last defender in front of goal.
So officiating decisions could make this final a very, very interesting final - especially with some of the biggest and best thespians on display today. Here is looking at you Arjen Robben and Sergio Busquets. What bets these two will be in each other's hair or bald spots (gotta be deferential to Robben) today?
Spain will play the final against Netherlands in blue and not the famous "Roja" kit. But if they win, they will don specially made jerseys for the occasion with the star of the world champions to receive the FIFA trophy.
Off topic: If one remembers correctly, Spain and Rafael Nadal won the Euro and the 2008 Wimbledon title, respectively, the same week. Looks like they could be lined up for another double. And speaking of Nadal, he has become part owner of RCD Mallorca, his boyhood club. He will be watching Spain today at Soccer City - all part of a celebrity watch.
Robin Van Persie's World Cup has been quite disastrous.
He looks slow and his timing is off. In fact, you could put him down on the worst striker list along with Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Torres. One goal in 479 minutes is not very flattering.
RVP's best moment came off the pitch when he threw a tantrum after being substituted by Bert Van Marwijk in the Netherlands vs Slovakia match. He felt Wesley Sneijder should have been substituted. True that.
So, yes, he is overly due for a big game.
Des Kelly is unimpressed by this World Cup. Except for the Giovanni Van Bronckhorst goal what else would you remember from this World Cup?
" Frankly, it has been the 'ho-hum' World Cup, the tournament that never quite took off. It tried. It threatened here and there, yet the overwhelming feeling has been one of vague anti-climax."
Agree or disagree?
I always wondered how Yossi Benayoun could take playing for Rafa, saving Liverpool many a times with his fine displays of football and still find himself on the bench. Well, the Israeli midfielder unloaded on his former boss and it does not make a pretty sight.
A thrilling open ended match between two teams who pulled out all the stops. Arguably, the best match in this World Cup.
But there should be no doubts about the best player. Diego Forlan has been simply superb in this World Cup.
Makes you wonder what happened at Man Utd. Maybe Sir Alex would like him back. Think about the damage he and Wayne Rooney could do. Forlan almost pulled off an equalizer in stoppage time as his free kick crashed off the upright with Hans Joerg Butt all beaten. Before that he set Edinson Cavani off to put Uruguay on par with his goal and then he himself scored a goal of Arevalo Rios's cross.
Forlan has not just shown himself to be a clinical finisher, he has been discovered as a playmaker. A boon really for Uruguay because their midfield was at best pedestrian in most of their matches. Nicolas Lodeiro at Ajax, Luis Suarez's team mate shows much promise but has some ways to go to mature as a creative force.
Fernando Muslera had a cruel match- really he should have done better with Bastian Schweinsteiger's long range shot, spilling it in front of Thomas Mueller who had the easiest of tasks. It became worse when he should have punched away Jerome Boateng's cross - instead he completely misjudges it and the ball comes to Marcel Janssen who just stands his ground and heads the ball. It should have been 2-0 to Uruguay.
Germany proved just a bit stronger in the end with another Uruguayan mistake gifting them the winner. Diego Lugano gets his legs all tangled up trying to clear Oezil's corner ans the ball pops up conveniently for Sami Khedira to score.
Uruguay came the furthest in the South American contingent after struggling to qualify for the World Cup - they had to edge out Costa Rica for the final slot. They will still have Forlan, Suarez, Cavani, Lodeiro, Lugano, Perez, Godin in four more years- so there is no reason why they should not continue to do well. Forlan is leaving Atletico and so is Suarez from Ajax- who will not want them now?
Germany meanwhile has whetted our appetites for more. They did not give up on their brand of attacking football fueled by a group of U21 talent which have teams like England and Italy desperately searching for a similar vein of gold. They too will be back in 2014 and this time at their peak of their powers. It is small wonder that no Brazilian is celebrating home turf as an automatic to the World Cup title.
Thank you Germany, thank you Uruguay - for providing such joyous moments. You were the two most entertaining teams in this World Cup.
On the eve of the historical Spain Holland World Cup Final,Robin van Persie votes for Diego Maradona over Johan Cruyff as being his source of inspiration.
"As soon as I saw the video when I was a boy of Maradona lifting the trophy and crying I was hooked," Van Persie said. "I can't tell you how many times I have watched that clip. I have always wanted to play in a final, since I was a kid. It means more than anything. Of course I have watched the two Dutch finals, too. I know our history in this competition.I have a really big picture of Maradona on the wall at home in my games room. It is an unbelievable picture of him holding the World Cup. He is on his team-mates' shoulders and he is holding it with passion. If we win I want that picture with me holding the World Cup and hopefully scoring in the World Cup final."
A Spanish national team shirt was attached to a balloon and launched 33 kilometres up into the atmosphere to celebrate their World Cup qualification.
A Spanish company called Zero 2 Infinity are responsible for the taking the T Shirt to where no other T Shirt has ever gone before.More....
And while we are talking about outer space here is video evidence of a UFO that was fooling around near the German goal during the Spain Germany game
As per Bild, Germany has much at stake with a win today.
- Remind the world once more about their brand of attractive attacking football.
- End on a positive note with a good World Cup record.
- Schweinsteiger, Oezil can clinch the best player award.
- Thomas Mueller can be named as the best young player.
- Miroslav Klose is very close to Ronaldo's record of 16 World Cup goals. A brace will make him the all time leader. But first he has to overcome back problems.
- Third place makes the players more attractive to the big clubs. Oezil is being chased by Barca and Man Utd, Khedira by Chelsea, and Real want to land Schweinsteiger.
- The new German president Christian Wulff will be at the game and it will be an auspicious start to his presidency.
- Many German fans want to bid adieu to the 2010 World Cup with a celebration. Then it is onward to the 2012 Euro in Ukraine/Poland.
Even Der Kaiser believes that Joachim Löw should go all out for a victory and give all those fans at the Brandenberg Gate something to cheer about after the semi-final disappointment.
Both countries have met before to decide 3rd and 4th places.
In the 1970 World Cup, Germany playing without Franz Beckenbauer (out with a dislocated shoulder) barely clung onto a Wolfgang Overath goal as the Celeste mounted attack after attack. How the Germans kept them out was a minor miracle in itself. Great, open ended game full of box to box action.
I used to dislike Rossi because of what he did to Brazil earlier in the tournament. That was the most disappointing moment of all my World Cup watching history - this skinny guy single-handedly destroying my favorite team of all time. Now, I got to hand it to him. He was fantastic. Watch:
R.I.P. Tele Santana. We miss your samba soccer!
I remember listening to this game on the radio, waaay past bedtime. Denis Law was one of the commentators. Kempes was Argentina's Maradona before Maradona.
Daniel Bertoni's story is touching as well, although they shoulda left out the tango in this next video. I know, I know, the ball was called the Tango. That was the first "official" ball I ever had.
Watching these videos I remembered Ubaldo "El Pato" Fillol - the Argentinian goalie. My friends used to say he caught chickens as practice. Chickens?!
Brian Phillips lays out the argument very persuasively and I absolutely agree.
When a player like Mark Van Bommel is your poster boy, something is seriously wrong. But this is not nostalgia for the forgotten era of Dutch totaalvoetball. Spain brings to the world, an admirable fealty to their passing game. This is not a lot of chasing imaginary windmills, since Spain seems to be adept at scoring, however few, some very meaningful goals.
It took a while for totaalvoetball (totalfootball) to be accepted and it will take a while for tiki taka to be accepted too. Italian catenaccio, Brazilian samba, Dutch totalfootball, and now Spain's tiki taka . Soccer reacts to and embraces successful labels.
Now if we could get David Wimmer to write Flaming Roja, the Neurotic Genius of Spanish Soccer and connect the dots between tiki taka and Euskadi separatism, Pedro Almadovar, Santiago Calatrava, and Francisco Goya, we will have his next masterpiece.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy who should know something about killer goals will be sitting on the couch in Hamburg as his country enters its third finals on Sunday. The former Real Madrid striker regrets a missed chance to be part of a historical first but acknowledges his days representing Holland is over.
He is also quite emphatic that Spain is clearly the favourite to win because of the way it plays the game. So much possession and ball control.
"They are untouchable."
Which comes back to who does he support? Clearly, Holland but he will rejoice too if Spain should win. And he warns the Rojas, Holland can kill you on the counterattack through Sneijder and Robben.
According to Bild, Löw will sign on for two years more as Germany's coach ensuring much needed continuity for the Euro 2012 campaign.
He will meet with his deputies, Hansi Flick and Andreas Kopke and then manager Oliver Bierhoff to set the exact terms of his contract which will also see him asking for a salary increase ( at € 2.5 million per year at present). Theo Zwanziger, the DFB chairman will meet with the board on 30 July to come to a decision.
There are a few faultlines in the DFB, notably between Matthias Sammer who has been responsible for much of Germany's youth revival as the sports director of the U17, U19, and U21 teams and Bierhoff, the DFB's chief negotiator and dealmaker for the national team.
There is a power struggle between Sammer on one side and and Bierhoff and Löw on the other as to who gets the final say over the U21 team- the nucleus of the present German success. The league supports Sammer while the DFB that looks out for the national interest is more comfortable dealing with Löw and Bierhoff.
Sammer has made no pretensions about his Mannschaft coaching ambitions should Löw decide to step down. The DFB will have to step in and give more control to Sammer over the U21 team to assuage him over any feelings of rejection.
One of my favourite players- Giovani Dos Santos is in the running for FIFA youth player of the World Cup. Dos Santos is already showing signs of brilliance - where he is the undisputed leader in an impressive Mexican midfield which boasts veteran playmakers like Blanco and Gerardo Torrado. A few more years and this lad will be world class.
This is what Christian Karambeu along with Jomo Sono - part of FIFA's Technical Study Group (TSG) had to say:
"Dos Santos is a brilliant player who has a very good passing game and, despite his youth, has already played in big clubs like Barcelona. He has matured a lot and has a great future."
Others in the running are Germany's Thomas Mueller who has already had 3 goals and 4 assists and Abedi Pele's son
Anthony Andre Ayew with his 85% accuracy rate a part of Ghana's success. Mueller was sorely missed in the semi-final against Spain where he could have posed problems to Joan Capdevila running down the right.
Spain rejoiced to the Oracle of Oberhausen's prediction- Pulpo Paul picked Spain over Netherlands in a live telecast sending the country into ecstasy. But Netherlands has its soothsayer in Mani the Parakeet as Anish pointed out. Which one will be seeking asylum? The birdbrain or the one without a spine?
While Paul the Octopus has been hogging the headlines,Mani the Parakeet has been doing an equally good job at predicting world cup match winners in Singapore.
And while Paul is still basking the glory of all it's successful predictions Mani has gone ahead of him and predicted the winner of the World Cup Finals.
The parakeet will probably become the National Bird of Netherlands if it's prediction comes out right.No prizes for guessing which country it chose to be World Champions 2010.
Actually it turns out now that Paul has in fact also made it's prediction.
About 7 minutes ago.
And it has picked Spain.
This has now become a classic struggle.
An irresistable octopus meeting an immovable parrot...!
Seems to be tough on tackles, pacy, and good in the air. Also some chops at feeding the ball upfield. Will be a good addition to Thomas Vermaelen although as everyone knows the physicality demands of the Premiership are quite extra-ordinary. So there will be a learning curve but hopefully it will be a short one.
Expect the Europa Cup modification of two additional referees patrolling behind goal to be implemented in future FIFA matches. And oh yes, goal line technology is back in the saddle again.
Whatever it is, the FIFA secretary general, Jeroen Valcke is quite confident that there are going to be changes.
"I would say that it is the final World Cup with the current refereeing system."
Looks like Frank Lampard was responsible for this volte face. Frank, you'll never get that goal back but at least others will. And for that they'll owe you a debt of gratitude.
Octopus Paul's life could be in danger threatened by angry Germans and now Spanish authorities are stepping in with suggestions to keep him alive. Spanish PM, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero:
"We will send Paul a team of bodyguards," he said after Spain's win over Germany.
Environment Minister Elena Espinosa would like to file for endangered species status so that Germans do not eat Paul.
A better idea would be to offer asylum to Paul, so he can live in a country that clearly worships him.
Spain's success is due to the myriad talent they have but what is so different about this team from other Spanish teams?
The narrow, parochial allegiances have been put aside. Egos eschewed. Under Vicente Del Bosque's serene leadership, the Furia are a team that has no galaxies, no dissenters.
Above all they cohabit, in good times and bad. Paul Hayward described Del Bosque as "a police inspector weighed down by a particularly complex homicide" which maybe true because previous Spanish teams have all met untimely demises. However, the former Real Madrid manager's lugubrious demeanour has the effect of calming Spain, on the brink of its biggest moment in football history.
Barcelona had seven players on the field against Germany - a source of pride for the club, a bonanza for Spain. But there is no mystery that the technical director of the team, Fernando Hierro is a Madridista to the bone and Vicente Del Bosque cut his teeth in the Real Madrid coaching ranks.
The two fierce rivals have buried their differences. So have players from the other clubs that comprise the team- Athletic, Atletico, Espanyol, Valencia, Sevilla. The team's identity is openness.
" The banner is good football, a certain style, formed in favour of a common cause, without use of birth certificates."
Anybody who's half good at maths will tell you that the probability of an octopus predicting anything correctly is usually 8:1.Considering that our Paul ( currently public enemy number 1 in Germany) isn't doing too badly at all.
Here meanwhile are videos from Adidas and Nike that had been released before the game to fan the flames and inflame the fans.
Even the NASA scientists have issues with the trajectory of the ball.
Rabi Mehta, an aerospace engineer at NASA Ames in Mountain View said: "It's quite obvious. You're seeing a knuckle-ball effect," [Mehta said in a statement released by NASA.] He explained that when a relatively smooth ball with seams flies through the air without much spin, the air close to the surface is affected by the seams, producing an asymmetric flow. This asymmetry creates side forces that can suddenly push the ball in one direction and cause volatile swerves and swoops. From his research on tennis and cricket balls in wind tunnels, Mehta believes that the Jabulani ball will tend to knuckle at 45 to 50 mph, which coincides with the speed of the ball during free-kick around the goal area. Another point made by Mehta, is that a lot of the stadiums for the World Cup are located at high altitude (Johannesburg is at 5,500 feet) and this will affect the ball aerodynamics as well, since the air density is lower. At this high altitude, the ball will tend to fly faster (less drag) and swerve less (less lift).
Back to the drawing board, Adidas! Maybe they can get it right for 2014.
One of the unfortunate consequences of the success of the 1998 Les Bleus was the far right rejection of the team.
Jean Marie Le Pen and the National Front openly questioned what was "Gallic" about the team. In Zidane, Thuram, and Makelele, they saw a rejection of nativist prinicples. Success had a way of leavening these fault lines but the 2010 debacle have seen these misgivings come back to the forefront.
Alain Finkielkraut, an influential thinker in far right circles equated the disaster as a portend of a France more vested in ethnic and religious divisions rather than a national character. The fabric of the country was being undermined by the generation of the caillera.
These sentiments are being echoed by German supremacists over the Mannschaft. With a multi-cultural hue and names like Oezil, Khedira, Cacau, Boateng, and Aogo supplanting traditional names like Schweinsteiger and Lahm. There is angst and fear at the loss of national identity. A feeling that the country is slipping away from right underneath them.
As this article by Der Spiegel points out Neo-Nazis hate this new team "because it totally disturbs their entire world view," which is based on ethnic purity and not on democratic principles. One far right website thundered:
"The squad is not a German national team and those people with dark complexions are the Federal Republic of Germany, but they are not Germany. Not tall and blond, but black, brown, puny and Muslim. What progress!"
In neighbouring Switzerland, a country whose immigration demographics closely mirror Germany- the national team already sports players like Eren Derdiyok and Gokhan Inler. The future of Swiss football have been brightened by immigrants who made up the majority of the U17 team that won the World Cup with unfamiliar names like Ben Khalifa, Seferovic, Pajtami, and Kofi Nimeley. In four years, there maybe far fewer Swiss names in the national ranks.
Soccer maybe an acceptable outlet for the new Switzerland as long as it brings success but it is also a country that wants to do away with the overt symbols of what is considered undesirable and less "Swiss" in that immigration. Far right activists within the Swiss People's Party were successful in mobilizing support to ban minarets.
"The minaret is a symbol of a political and aggressive Islam. The minute you have minarets in Europe it means Islam will have taken over."
A common perception of the German teams of the past was of a "Teutonic" spirit that never gave up. Gary Lineker summed it up: "Soccer is a game for 22 people that run around, play the ball ... and in the end Germany always wins." No matter how boring, untalented the team, or whether the other team were two goals up - it was axiomatic, the Germans were never going to go away.
This may change with Germany not having won a significant title since the
1990 World Cup1996 Euro. The DFB have actively wooed migrant talent and expedited naturalization requirements. Cacau is a prime example.
The Mannschaft with the immense talents of a team with migrant backgounds like Oezil, Khedira, Cacau, Klose, and Podolksi perfectly complementing more ethnic German team mates like Schweinsteiger and Mueller won the world with their samba style soccer as they blistered their way through to the semi-finals giving no quarter to England and Argentina. But against Spain, they surrendered meekly. It was strange to see a German team so deferential, letting Spain roam without so much as a tackle.
The present Mannschaft may have been embraced by the rest of the world but their country might be more grudgingly disposed to them with attention paid to to who is singing "Deutschlandlied". Only Klose amongst those players with a migrant background passed the smell test. "Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of a German man" maybe the rallying cry of the far right but it could also poison the feel good story of the Mannschaft if they stop producing meaningful results.
For many not invested in anything other than good football, the new German brand is an antidote to all that "efficiency." For others less forgiving, this maybe a sign that the "golden years of German football" have gone by.
Octopus Paul has become the target of German wrath after correctly predicting Spain would win. Now there are plans afoot to take "care" of him. Well, Paul might need to grow a spine and take matters into his hand .... mmmm.... tentacles. An 8 shooter?
The Netherlands might disagree. But we are looking at possibly the best team on the planet right now.
It's that stifling passing game that somehow manages to unlock each and every stubborn defense and as the game goes on without a score, it becomes dangerous for the other team.
Joachim Low will agree:
"They have become a great team, with incredible unity and they have some automatism that make the difference. It is the best team in the world. "
"We did not reach the final, but the work has been excellent. We have to keep working because there is quality in these players is extraordinary and time, effort and experience, maybe some day we can beat Spain. "
When I see Carles Puyol, I am reminded of Mickey Rourke's character in "The Wrestler" - with a face framed by long, unruly, dirty blond locks. A face seamed with the ravages of age and hardship beyond recognition, wills his bruised and battered body beyond the limits of
medical science human physiology, and ultimately triumphs with his heroics.
That was Puyol. As he has been for Barcelona. An unrelenting presence at the back. Today, he scored the most important goal in his life. Xavi's corner was heading to the dim, dark periphery when Puyol flung himself at the ball. Rising above men a generation younger.
Spain go to heights never experienced before. Just like Euro 2008, they needed one single game changing moment which they achieved. But it was not David Villa or Fernando Torres who led Spain across the Rubicon as planned but the iconic face of the Spanish team. Carles Puyol. What an image that will be for generations of Spaniards.
Speaking of which, can we get the octopus to predict stock picks?
Puyol's header gets them through.
The octopus was right!
A historic final now - Holland vs. Spain. We'll have a new World Cup winner either way.
A very cautious first half. Spain enjoying a big edge in possession without looking very threatening. Not very surprising. The end product has been lacking.
Germany on the occasion that they have had the ball look a bit more enterprising but for all their firepower it was Piotr Trochowski who had their first genuine chance.
A battle of attrition. The longer it goes scoreless, it plays to Spain's strength because their passing game will wear the German defense down. A clever pass and Villa could be at the right place at the right time. Or Del Bosque could put Torres on for the final throw of the dice.
Lets hope the second half brings better endeavour from both teams.
The Germans have been used to having quick counterattacks work for them but the Spanish have maintained their defensive discipline. Very few silly fouls and bad tackles. This so far has been an easy match to officiate.
As they say something has got to give. One more note, Xavi is a top drawer midfielder but a counterattacking threat he is not - Spain had two occasions where they could have mounted a serious challenge on the German goal but it went sideways. That's the story so far. Zigzagging to somnolence.
It could come down to a Euro 2008 moment when Fernando Torres blew by Philipp Lahm.
Vicente Del Bosque brings in Pedro who has shown a lot of pace, industry, and just a bit of that X factor that could throw Germany offstride. A refreshing quality about Pedro is his ability to let go with some long distance bombs which have netted him quite a few goals at Barca. He can also operate as a winger out on the right.
Fernando Torres has been kept back but in the event Spain has trouble kick starting its attack, he could be Del Bosque's ace. So far its been an extremely forgettable World Cup for the Liverpool striker. He meets a familiar foe in the Germans which might jog his muscle memory into doing something equally big.
If Spain can keep Germany from going ahead and holding them scoreless as the match goes deeper, it favours their patient and probing approach. Lots of ball possession and build up between Iniesta and Xavi and a sudden outlet to Villa or Torres. They are the slowest team bar the North Koreans. But they are also the quickest at regaining back a lost ball. It's part of that Barcelona "pressing" strategy which will see two or three players swarm a German player.
Spain has been bogged down by lack of a wide game - the danger is everything forced down the middle will become entirely predictable. Look for Del Bosque to introduce Jesus Navas or David Silva to keep the Germans honest.
The Germans on the other hand are very quick and all they need is Spain losing the ball for an instant and they will be on the counterattack. Trochowki's inclusion means that they will not miss a step.
Spain had Marcos Senna on the field for Euro 2008 but the Germans have Bastian Schweinsteiger in 2010- the Rojas do not have anyone quite like him. Omnipresent on the field- his heat map reads like a rampant metastases. Schweini can deliver the ball from Manuel Neuer's feet to the feet of Miroslav Klose. Throw in a Ballack like ability on set pieces and we have the most complete player this World Cup.
Although the protean Germans switch points of attack frequently they do like going down that left flank which will keep Sergio Ramos and Carlos Puyol very busy. The Bastian Schweinsteiger- Mesut Oezil- Lukas Podolksi nexus will find a way to Miroslav Klose, who smells history.
The Germans will be looking to correct that Euro 2008 result. They have all the reasons to keep their sights trained on a fourth World Cup title. Spain has never been to the World Cup finals. If they succeed today, we have two countries in the finals in a position to go to never achieved heights.
Germany: 1-Manuel Neuer; 16-Philipp Lahm, 3-Arne Friedrich, 17-Per Mertesacker, 20-Jerome Boateng, 15-Piotr Trochowski, 6-Sami Khedira, 7-Bastian Schweinsteiger, 10-Lukas Podolski, 8-Mesut Ozil, 11-Miroslav Klose.
Spain: 1-Iker Casillas; 15-Sergio Ramos, 3-Gerard Pique, 5-Carlos Puyol, 11-Joan Capdevila; 14-Xabi Alonso, 8-Xavi, 6-Andres Iniesta, 16-Sergio Busquets; 18-Pedro, 7-David Villa.
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary).
Pedro gets the nod over the out of form Torres and the experienced Piotr Trochowski comes in for Thomas Mueller.
Bayern Munich's Toni Kroos, an attacking midfielder and another one of those 20 something talents is in pole position to replace the suspended Thomas Mueller.
At 17 years and 265 days, he is the youngest player to debut for Bayern. His praises have been sung by Miroslav Klose and Ollie Kahn since he won the 2007 U20 World Cup Golden Ball. He was loaned out to Bayer Leverkusen at the start of last season and made an instant impact. Jogi Low has shown no hesitation in gambling with young talent and against Spain, Kroos will find no bigger stage. He ironically, is billed as his generation's Michael Ballack.
The super subs:
Others in line to replace Mueller are Hamburg's Piotr Trochowski who has far more experience and brings his skill and pace down the left as a playmaker but is more likely to come off the bench. Bayern Munich's Marko Marin operating down the right at gut busting speed is more of a goal scoring threat but could be kept as Low's ace in the hole.
Kevin Prince Boateng deciding to lay his studs on Michael Ballack's ankle seems to be the best thing in hindsight to happen to Germany. Just a month ago, Germany was convulsed in doom and gloom as Ballack was ruled out. Now, he seems to be a figment from Thomas Mann's " The Magic Mountain".
Ballack was brought to South Africa on a sympathy vote a week ago. As a mascot to cheerlead his team the same as Beckham for the English. After being an ubiquitous presence on the sidelines he ostensibly returned to Germany to continue his rehab. But there is a feeling he was politely asked to leave to defuse a growing crisis between him and Philipp Lahm.
Behind the scenes the German success made his position more trivial and exposed fault lines between this young team and the older establishment.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is having the World Cup of his life and has found an able assistant in Sami Khedira. The midfield's uptempo game relyin on quick releases had led to a glut of open field goals offsetting German concerns that Ballack's set piece expertise would be missed.
In the latest nail, Lahm's captaincy has proved quite inspirational to this young German side. Not surprisingly, Lahm wants to continue as captain after the World Cup is over. He has made it clear that he is not going to give it up.
"To be clear I would like to continue as captain. It has been a lot of fun. Why should I give it up voluntarily?" The Bayern Munich full back was also not all that enthused about Ballack returning to the national squad offering an ambiguous, "It's not for me to say yes or no."
This viewpoint is shared by a public that increasingly feels that Ballack is now not central to the team's success. However, officially, the opinion makers like Rudi Voller and Oliver Bierhoff are insistent that Ballack remains an important part of Germany's future and nothing has changed.
Lahm is enjoying his responsibility and most visibly this German team is having fun. They have bought a ray of sunshine to a World Cup in which the Dutch and the Brazilians resemble grim reapers and the Spanish have zigged and zagged their way to somnolence.
Ballack has promised he'll be back for the finals if Germany succeeds against Spain today. Jogi Low has tiptoed around the issue but after the World Cup it needs to be addressed right away with the Euro qualifying campaign looming large. Politics waits for no one.
Arsenal's attempts to bolster their central defense, an area of rapid depletion, got a boost with the imminent signing of Laurent Koscielny, of Lorient. He is 24 years and stands 6'1". His impressive form at Tours, a Ligue 2 club carried over when he joined Lorient last year.
This World Cup has shown unequivocally without a good pair of defenders in the middle, the consequences are dire. And the Gunners have a situation in central defense.
Johan Djorou returns from an injury absence after a year and will have all kinds of niggles and match fitness issues. Vermaelen is running out of partners as William Gallas, Phillipe Senderos, and Mikael Silvestre are not expected not to return to the Emirates.
The Gunners are reported to have paid €12m for Koscielny's services which means they expect the highly rated defender to pair up with Thomas Vermaelen. He seems to be training with the youth reserves already. The future of Sol Campbell remains a bit murky although Wenger might be keen to retain him with his leadership skills and impressive performance off the bench.
Arsene Wenger is in South Africa and will return after its over. Koscielny could be introduced formally sometime early next week.
On the graphic above are the top players of the World Cup as per the Castrol Index.
First things first- these players have been selected on their scores. Which doesn't mean the top players in that position. The graphic is therefore misleading. But even then some of the scores don't make sense.
I would never dream of using Gilberto as a holding midfielder (great in his Arsenal days but that was 4-5 years ago ) but wouldn't Bastian Schweinsteiger be a better choice? He gets a high score but it is not enough to displace Gilberto.
Steven Gerrard was pretty ineffective out on the left but improved when positioned just behind Rooney. Still there is something wrong when he finds place when there are more deserving candidates. He ranks far above Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Actually, the index does not seem to think much of the Barca duo at all. Sergio Busquets is actually Spain's top midfielder. After that eyebrow raiser we find Xavi and Iniesta way down the list behind Marek Hamsik, Maxi Rodriguez, and Anthony Annan. Somehow I don't think Vicente Del Bosque cares.
Sneijder occupies Arjen Robben's position - the Bayern Munich winger would not make a fifth list of Castrol's top eleven with his ridiculously low scores.
Sergio Ramos is not a center back- he is a right back. So according to the index the center back with the highest score who actually should partner Pique is Juan.
What do you think? Here is the link to the Castrol Index >>
Oscar Tabares pulled out Diego Forlan in the 38th minute of the second half much to everyone's surprise.
Later, it was revealed that Forlan was not really 100% fit having a thigh pain that bothered him right from the start. However, without Luis Suarez, Uruguay had no other option but to play him.
He gave his best but in the second half found it difficult to carry on.
Oscar Tabares on his decision to pull out Forlan:
" We would be fools not to take him out without a major reason. He could continue, but we had to make the decision in a given time. It was nothing serious, but obviously he was not 100%. "
Forlan himself said that the match left him with a bitter taste - the match was lost in the four minutes between Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben's goals. It took them a long time to come back into the game with Maxi Pereira scoring Uruguay's second goal in added time. This was a time to exert himself to the maximum but he was already struggling and unable to carry on.
One of the players that Dunga could have done with to lift a moribund Brazilian attack has not been paying much attention to the World Cup.
Ronaldinho has been frequenting the beaches of Rio with two brunettes and a blonde (unfortunately, no pictures of the ladies in question). In the mornings he plays footvolley with Romarinho, son of Romario of a 1000 goal fame and a bright young talent himself.
He had very little to say about Brazil's performance.
"I'd rather just talk about it after the World Cup. For now, I am keeping shut. Nothing against the press."
Ronaldinho also did not rule out a possibility of returning to Brazil to play for either Palmeiras or Flamengo. The Sao Paulo club is trying to line up sponsors to bankroll Ronaldinho's wages. A number of Brazilians have returned in recent years including Ronaldo (Corinthians), Adriano (Flamengo), and Robinho (Santos).
Say what you will - Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben scoring was expected.
What was not expected was Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's goal. You will not find a bigger goal than that in terms of difference. The man rarely scores - it was his sixth goal in 105 appearances. That's been the Dutch story, goals out of nowhere. But what a weapon they ride into the final!
What a match! The Uruguayans never gave up.
Maxi Pereira scored an added time goal. That made it 3-2 and the finish was never more frenetic as the Charruas sent every one on top to try and get the equalizer. There was high drama as Mark Van Bommel thinking time was over takes off his armband and the referee Ravshan Irmatov books him. An agonizing minute - its finally over.
Holland are in the finals for the first time since 1978. They now await the winners of Germany vs Spain.
We have a game. Maarten Stekelenberg will be none too pleased about the goal he gave up. Diego Forlan curls a shot which bounces off the Dutch goalie's fingertips and into the net.
Forlan's amazing World Cup continues. He also turned down Spurs to remain in the Liga- just as well as an Arsenal supporter.
Enzo Francescoli, the Uruguayan legend spent five years in the French Ligue and greatly influenced Zinedine Zidane, who copied his silky smooth touch on the ball. Francescoli was the name most associated with Uruguayan soccer. A rarity after the halcyon 1940s and 1950s.
The incomparable Eduardo Galeano, writer of Open Veins of Latin America, and possibly the keenest observer of the sport wrote this of Uruguay and Francescoli.
" Now all that remains of the state's social calling, and of soccer, is nostalgia. Several players, like the very subtle Enzo Francescoli, have managed to inherit and renovate the old arts, but in general Uruguayan soccer is a far cry from what it used to be."
Uruguay will try and resurrect those days of yore against the Netherlands.
Uruguay: 1-Fernando Muslera; 3-Diego Godin, 6-Mauricio Victorino, 5-Walter Gargano, 16-Maximiliano Pereira, 22-Martin Caceres, 15-Diego Perez, 11-Alvaro Pereira, 17-Egidio Arevalo, 7-Edinson Cavani, 10-Diego Forlan.
Netherlands: 1-Maarten Stekelenburg; 12-Khalid Boulahrouz, 3-John Heitinga, 4-Joris Mathijsen, 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst; 7-Dirk Kuyt, 6-Mark van Bommel, 10-Wesley Sneijder, 14-Demy de Zeeuw, 11-Arjen Robben; 9-Robin van Persie.
Oscar Tabares brings in defender Martin Caceres and Diego Godin for the injured Diego Lugano and suspended Jorge Fucile.
In the midfield there are two changes for the suspended Luis Suarez and injured Alvaro Fernandez as Tabares brings on Walter Gargano as holding midfielder and Egidio Arevalo Rios.
Bert van Marwijk introduces Khalid Boulahrouz and Demy de Zeeuw for the suspended Gregory van der Wiel and Nigel de Jong.
Blatter has achieved what top physicists having been trying to do for decades - fusion at room temperature.
Sepp Blatter revealed in a press conference in Johannesburg that the FIFA World Player of the Year award and the Ballon d'Or will cease to exist as two separate entities and will merge into one individual trophy.It will henceforth be called the FIFA Ballon D'or.
The first fused trophy will be given out on Jan 10 next year.
We all know this World Cup has been the graveyard for 'superstars' like Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Franck Ribery, Kaka, Didier Drogba, and Fernando Torres (so far).
Well, the " superstar sentinels" also proved to be huge let downs.
Fabio Cannavaro: That goal given up to Shane Smeltz had Italy and the world reeling from the implications of a New Zealand win. That it happened with Cannavaro facing Smeltz is another story in the unraveling of the 2006 FIFA's player of the year. His sure footed tackling and preternatural ability to get into positions to snuff out danger was widely regarded as responsible for Italy's World Cup success. On a downward spiral since he returned to Juventus.
Patrice Evra: Actually any French defender will do- so shoddy were they at stopping Mexico and South Africa. But Evra chose to cover himself with brickbats off the field too as he led a player revolt against Raymond Domenech's decision to fire Nicholas Anelka. The Man Utd full back was consumed by exposing the "traitor" who tattled to L'Equipe about that confrontation. He was benched for France's most important World Cup match against South Africa.
John Terry: Nothing exposed Terry and his lack of pace and forethought as the Manuel Neuer boot upfield which he gave up on. That left Matthew Upson one on one with Miroslav Klose and you know how that would turn out. He was again guilty of not marking Thomas Mueller in those German breakaways. But off the pitch too, he continued the theme of clumsy divisiveness trying to takeover from Steven Gerrard and undermining Fabio Capello.
Nemanja Vidic: The Man Utd center back looked slow against Asmaoah Gyan as the Ghanaian striker had his way. Against Germany, Vidic handled Arne Friedrich's cross in a defensive meltdown and was saved further embarrassment when Lukas Podolksi failed to convert his spot kick. Against Australia, a win or a draw would have seen the Serbs book a place in the Group of 16 but Vidic failed to deal effectively with a long ball into the box and Tim Cahill seized his chance yet again.
Ricardo Osorio: The long time Stuttgart right back, part of their Bundesliga winning team in 2007 and a constant presence in El Tri since 2003 made one of the most inexplicable blunders this World Cup gifting the ball to Gonzalo Higuain. Argentina got its second goal and with Tevez scoring a third, made it impossible for Mexico to come back even though they looked the brighter team in the second half.
Jay De Merit: He is not a superstar when you compare him to the ones above. But he also provided one of the biggest talking points in the group stage- the USA's ability to give up early goals. From Steven Gerrard to Asamoah Gyan- De Merit demonstrated a lack of spring in his step in the first minutes of any half. Against Ghana it proved fatal. Given his Premiership experience and Bradley's faith in him as the one constant central presence, his defending can be regarded as a major failure.
I would like to know which commentator would not have called Luis Suarez stupid for not trying to stop that goal. Is it Suarez's duty to absolve every cheat, every diver, and handballer on this planet by an act of sportsmanship? Or does he try and give his country a chance to stay alive?
Maybe he should have stopped his hand and seen the ball sail through to goal. Yes, then have Chris Waddle calling him a moron for his attempt at moral redemption. Have the Uruguayans give him a collective finger for subverting a result that will finally move them out of the shadows of their southern neighbours?
Suarez's infraction was detected, the rules were applied. He was punished. That did not happen in the Thierry Henry and Diego Maradona handball- one caused a country to advance unfairly, the other led to a country's humiliation that still rankles a quarter century later. Yes, Suarez's unrepentant and over the top reaction was unseemly but this is a false equivalence.
In this case Asamoah Gyan had his chance. A player who converted a spot kick twice in the same tournament faltered. It was a horribly bad ending but even Ghanaians know it was not Suarez who came between them and a historical precedent.
Why then is there so much teeth gnashing? Again it is not unsurprising that it is the English media that is leading the charge on Suarez. Their miserable World Cup failure has left them with little left to do other than co-opt moral outrage.
As Richard Williams puts it, "Poor Asamoah Gyan's inability to convert the penalty that would have made them Africa's first semi-finalists turned this into the biggest distortion of justice at any World Cup since West Germany eliminated France in the 1982 semi-final after Harald Schumacher's assault on Patrick Battiston."
Please spare me the sanctimonious claptrap about Africa. The Guardian's insinuations regarding South Africa's readiness to host the World Cup - publishing articles that regularly highlighted the crime rate, AIDS, delays in stadium construction, cost overruns, and closeness to Robert Mugabe shows they cared a fig about "distortion of justice."
In retrospect, Suarez's handball served a purpose. In all other instances this World Cup they were self destructive. Ghana benefited twice. Zdravko Kuzmanovic inexplicably interfered with a non-threatening cross - Asamoah Gyan was on target against Serbia. Gyan did not miss against Australia either after Harry Kewell clumsily handled the ball. Rafael Van Der Vaart's moment of idiocy handling a free kick gifted Samuel Eto'o a spot kick.
Tim Vickery in his Sunday column for the Beeb posits the theory that Diego Maradona was too "emotional" for the team's good. It clouded his judgment.
Instead of starting Juan Sebastian Veron, he went with Carlos Tevez. With the Estudiantes midfielder missing, Leo Messi drifted deeper and deeper in ball retrieval mode, rendering him ineffective. With Veron in the team, Messi looked much sharper, more assured of service as Argentina built their attack around this axis.
According to Vickery, Maradona should have stuck with a 4-4-2 formation against Germany that brought them success in the group stage and against Germany in the March friendly. Instead Maradona abandoned caution to the winds and went in with Tevez against Mexico, a match that was won through El Tri's mistakes. Abandoning that strategy was brutally exposed against Germany, a team; aside from the match against Serbia, been proved flawless.
Veron's influence on the pitch may have been felt but Argentina's weakness on defense was far more crucial. The absence of Walter Samuel really hurt Argentina.
Argentina was found wanting as Inter's players were unavailable through injury and omission:
All German goals came from the left flank.
Without Samuel, Maradona had to shuffle Nicholas Otamendi to right back and bring Nicholas Burdisso to pair up with Martin Demichelis. Right away there was a level of inexperience in the right back position exploited by Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski, Thomas Mueller, and Mesut Oezil.
The first goal would not have occurred if Otamendi had been quick to front Mueller, he was too slow to react and the Bayern Munich striker was able to get to Schweinsteiger's free kick first.
Burdisso is no Samuel and the center pairing was therefore soft and susceptible to the incisive passing of the Germans.
The second goal which killed off Argentinian endeavour came from a nice bit of hustle by Schweinsteiger who goes to ground but manages to stick out a leg and pass to Podolksi racing down the left.
The FC Koln striker looking across saw an unmarked Klose in front of goal and threaded the ball between both Burdisso and Sergio Romero to find the Bayern Munich man who walked the ball in. One of Walter Samuel's great strengths is this great positional awareness and ability to get horizontal blocking out passes and shots.
But Maradona had set himself up much before that by not including Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso.
There was an outcry in Argentina when he omitted these two players from the team. This was right after Inter's monumental CL campaign where waves of Barcelona attacks were repelled by Zanetti, Samuel, Lucio, Maicon, Thiago Motta, and Cambiasso. Inter's bread and butter had three Argentinians and three Brazilians. One of the greatest expositions of defending and Maradona chooses to overlook the duo?
In Cambiasso, you had a far more mobile and creative holding midfielder than Javier Mascherano who struggled at Liverpool last season and had very little say in the match against Mexico and Germany.
We also know Cambiasso's scoring capabilities. Against Chelsea, his superlative strike stopped a Blues comeback and ended their CL aspirations. He can create too. The last highlight of Inter's season was provided by Diego Milito- a goal scored against Siena initiated by Cambiasso and relayed through Zanetti. Three players who were not on the field against Germany.
Argentina was undone by Maradona's "emotionality" but it was also undone by Maradona's failure to take the right players to South Africa. Walter Samuel's injury absence was far more important than Juan Sebastian Veron. If it was not for Samuel, Massimo Moratti might have grounds for believing Maradona bears a grudge against his club. Maybe he does, maybe he does, you never know from those days at Napoli.
Spain's attack has a self paced feel to it with difficulties getting up tempo. They meet a German team that sets an attacking tone right from the get go. The Rojas do not want to go behind early. They need to force Germany into defensive measures early. Unfortunately, Fernando Torres's form and Vicente Del Bosque's tactic of two holding midfielders has slowed down the team to a crawl. They are the slowest of the four semi-finalists and out of the 32 teams only the North Koreans are slower.
Against Germany in Euro 2008, the blistering pace of Torres made the difference as he outclassed Philip Lahm in that footchase. Spain unfortunately cannot rely on him to provide that breakaway this World Cup.
El Nino has been a pale shadow- sadly lacking speed, strength, and touch. Without those elements, the Rojas have become a lateral passing team trying to break down defenses through the middle. The Paraguayans effectively marshaled their forces in that part of the pitch before another classical Xavi- Iniesta- Villa move unlocked the defense. But Spain had to sweat to the 83rd minute for that breakthrough.
The Germans will expect more of the same. Which is why Torres should sit on the bench. Spain can increase speed and widen its game by introducing Jesus Navas and hope the Sevilla player bears his crosses into the box. Del Bosque will go in for a 4-2-3-1. The Germans are looking for that correction too.
Del Bosque should be emboldened by doing away with one of the holding midfielders- preferably Busquets and pair up Fernando Llorente with David Villa up front with Jesus Navas out on the right flank. You create a 4-1-3-2 with a lot of speed and variation down the wings. Germany will be forced to stretch out their defense.
The manager who led Brazil to their 2002 World Cup title (that seems to last century to most Brazilians), managed to coax the always underwhelming Portugese to a Euro finals in 2004, and two years later led them to the semi-finals in the 2006 World Cup is the frontrunner for the Brazilian job.
He has also reconnected with Brazilian football after almost eight years in Europe with his decision to join Palmeiras as their new coach once the World Cup is over.
As a commentator for this World Cup he has a unique vantage point - getting first hand impressions of who he can retain for the 2014 World Cup squad from the present team.
Apart from his winning resume with national teams he is also the fan favourite for the national job. A Globesporte poll showed 46% of Brazilians want him back leading other candidates mentioned- Mano Menezes (Corinthians), Ricardo Gomes (Sao Paulo), Muricy Ramalho (Fluminese) and Leonardo, who recently left AC Milan.
Mano Menezes of Corinthians is the manager most likely to challenge him for the position. He has made a career of bringing up clubs from relegation with Gremio in 2005 and Corinthians in 2008. Menezes is under contract till 2011 which he is unlikely to give up according to sources.
A few points noted: Big Phil's 2002 squad's average age was 26 years while Dunga's 2010 class was 29 years. If Big Phil does become the manager, he will go for a younger Brazil- one which might sport Ramires, Neymar, and Paulo Henrique Ganso.
Brazil's test will begin soon. They meet USA in a friendly on August 10th. Previously, this would be dismissed as a warm up but with the USA making such a serious statement this will be a gut check in the post Dunga era.
Spain is the verdict this time.Or so it says here.Couldn't find any other article that corroborates that decision so it might just be a rumour started by the spaniards.
Here in Nkwalini, the tiny village I've been living in, people walk pretty much everywhere. Very few people have cars so walking is the main form of transportation. I'm staying with a local man named Siphiwo. He has a car, but it's usually not working. About two kilometers from his home there is a bumpy field with rickety wooden goal frames where I've been holding soccer trainings for a group of about 20 local kids between the ages of nine and fifteen.
Each morning, I gather some of the balls I brought from home and walk to the field. Usually, there are at least a few kids already there waiting for me. When I walk down the dirt path to the field, they wave and immediately scatter, spreading the word that another session is indeed taking place. Gradually, more players begin to assemble at the field. They come in ones and twos and threes on foot from all directions. Within ten or fifteen minutes, my team has assembled and I begin the session.
Each time we train, I start by leading a dynamic warm-up. The kids always laugh at me as I demonstrate the "high-knees," "butt-kicks," and other exercises, but they nevertheless follow along, mimicking my every move. Their enthusiasm is infectious, however, it's difficult to harness because I don't speak their language. Our sessions are simple because I can only demonstrate very straightforward drills through hand gestures, and charades. We mostly pass in lines and juggle. It's fun to watch as they learn by doing, gradually grasping the instructions that I pantomime to them.
At the end of each session, I divide the group into two teams, punt the ball into the air and blow my whistle once. This is all the instruction the kids need to finish the practice with a match. Some things really are universal in their appeal.
As I leave the slanted, bumpy, practice ground that is overgrown with weeds, the same three kids always accompany me. They point to the balls I carry, I drop them and they dribble along. They walk me home to Siphiwo's, just for the pleasure of kicking a ball. This daily journey on foot reminds me that having to walk everywhere makes you appreciate distance and space differently. These kids probably only leave the hills, fields, and dirt roads of their village a few times every year.
The World Cup in South Africa is building a bridge between the global and the local. It all seems very far away from these daily walks, but these kids are a part of a worldwide phenomenon.
This sign held up by the German fans says it all:
The fat lady has sung for both Dunga and now Maradona.
As Humberto pointed out earlier, the tragedy is that Messi misses out because of Maradona's incompetence as a coach.
The German God ran riot over Maradona's God. Even Arne Freidrich got a goal.
You know what is frightening about this German team- they are just going to get better. The average age of this team is just above 21. Mesut Oezil is going to be 25 years old when the Germans get to Brazil. Think about that.
This match almost seemed like a set up. Give Argentina a perfect run in the group stage, get Maradona going with fist pumps, bear hugs, and his oracle like predictions. Everyone starts talking about how good the Albiceleste look- they could go all the way. Leave it to Germany to expose Argentina as a band of individuals with few tactics. This team is getting good at snuffing out pretenders.
The Germans played AS a team. Bastian Schweinsteiger was immense. Miroslav Klose, Thomas Mueller, Sami Khadira, Mesut Oezil, Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker, Arne Freidrich, Jerome Boateng, Philip Lahm, and Manuel Neuer. They pulled up their socks and played all 90 minutes for each other. They were all over the field. Schweinsteiger was a machine - his heat map must be all over the place.
For all of Tevez and Messi's industry, Argentina created very few chances. For Messi, this World Cup was supposed to be a coronation but his trademark cut and thrust was hemmed by a swarming German defense. He was still the best player on the field for Argentina but on this day it was not going to be enough. He needed a team, they needed a team. Unfortunately, they just did not seem to recover from the shock of that 3rd minute goal given up Sergio Romero. After the second goal by Klose, the deflated Argentinians looked ready to walk off the field and even Maradona's incessant fingering of the rosary stopped. He too had made connection with reality.
Europe 2 South America 1. This World Cup could very well have three European semi-finalists today with just Uruguay standing between them. The clock has turned towards the better organized teams.
The Octopus had predicted that Germany would have a tough game against Argentina.Here's Klose scoring their fourth goal (to nothing).It wasn't a tough game.It was a walkover.
Luis Suarez leaves the field in tears after being red carded for his handball offense. He thinks its all over. One moment of madness and Uruguay goes down in flames. But what could he have done- the ball was going into the goal and his head was nowhere near the ball? The hand, the hand!
Given the number of refereeing errors in this World Cup - a goal disallowed two yards behind the line, another "Hand of God" act had a good chance of succeeding. Maradona had done so, Thierry Henry had done so.
Halfway though to the tunnel he expects the roar of the crowd, instead there is stunned silence - he turns around and looks back and finds Muslera blowing air kisses at the upright. He realizes Asamoah Gyan missed his penalty. In joy, he runs back to the field, hugs everyone, and is ushered out.
In retrospect, Suarez actually sacrificed himself so that Uruguay could go forward. This is not part of the highlights. That is the copy and paste part. Uruguay was given a lifeline in a moment of madness. Football is moments like this.
Good quality highlights. Watch Robinho's great skill on the ball and Luis Fabiano's back heel that sets up Kaka's shot. Only Maarten Stekelenburg's superlative save keeps it out. A bit of true Brazlian craft amidst those two paradigm shifting moments that will be played for ever and ever again. Melo's kick on Arjen Robben, no stranger to theatrics himself was unforgivable.
A note on Robinho. He answered every critic who questioned his work ethic and commitment. By far the best Brazilian player on the squad. We shall see him again in 2014 - this time with better support on and off the pitch.
O Fenomeno via Twitter:
"Felipe Melo better not come to Brazil for his holidays"
"I don't understand the lack of communication between Melo and Julio Cesar. When he comes out Julio always shouts, but this time both men went for the ball," added Ronaldo commenting on the own goal.
Felipe Melo's life is going to be one living nightmare from now on. Video footage of that own goal and his red card are on a loop and everyone needs a poster boy to hang.
The baby faced Muslera just celebrated his 24th birthday. In goalkeeping years, he is a toddler when compared to some of the graybeards who still continue in his position. He had about a half dozen national caps for the Charruas but for those who follow the Serie, his performances for Lazio have been nothing short of phenomenal.
He has continued that form in this World Cup keeping clean sheets during the group stage conceding just the one goal to the South Koreans in the Group of 16. Today, he fell prey to Sulley Muntari's long range bomb.
Muslera, however came up big in the biggest moment in his country's World Cup history since 1970, as time stood still in Montevideo - by stopping John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah in today's penalty shootout. Both Ghanaian's might be guilty of not making better shots but Muslera showed enough composure and anticipation to pull of those saves under tremendous pressure.
To have missed a history setting penalty in the 121st minute - as Ghana and Africa stood on the brink of their first ever appearance into a World Cup semi-final would have weighed heavy on the mind and heart of a mere mortal. We can lose ourselves in the miasma of Afro-pessimism and simple minded fatalism.
But Asamoah Gyan showed the courage of a lion to come out and convert that first penalty in the shootout to get Ghanaian and African hearts beating. He gave them hope once again.
He is a special player - and Ghana should be proud of the way they never quit. For large parts of the match they were the better team. The Black Stars have established themselves as the torchbearers of Africa- they may not be the best footballing nation in that continent, the Egyptians lay claim to that, but they always seem to be their most consistent performer.
These are feel good words and Ghanaians everywhere have every right to be inconsolable with the match that got away. But lets put it this way- you gave hope, realistic hope to millions of people. Africa is ready to compete. Your time will come.
Sebastian Abreu converts his PK after Dominic Adiyah misses. What a twisting, nervewracking finish.
Ghana could have won the match in extra time as Asamoah Gyan missed his penalty as his shot hit the upright.
What heartbreak for Ghana who did so splendidly well this World Cup. They came so close, so very close- one upright away from victory.
Sulley Muntari gives Ghana the lead in the final seconds of the first half with a left-footed blast from midfield.
The Black Stars are taking this game.
They've had more opportunities like the missed overhead kick by Kevin-Prince Boateng. Now that's the beautiful game we love!
Go Ghana! Red, Yellow, and Green.
" As the manager, I think the blame belongs to us all. I take most of the blame and now would be unfair to speak of Felipe Melo. It is not the first time a player is sent off. When we win, everyone wins. When we lose, everyone loses. With one less is it is more difficult. I tried to put a player with more speed (Nilmar) to join with Kaka and Robinho. Sometimes you trade a player with five, ten minutes, just so that takes the player into the game."
Felipe Melo who personifies Dunga's experiment provided its hypotheses and its conclusive proof: It did not work.
Melo, who if one remembers was high on Wenger's wish list last season, played with absolutely no skill. He was responsible for an own goal and then red carded. An outcome as predictable as the setting of the sun.
Now the CBF has its choice- will they accept this as proof that on the world's biggest stage Brazil failed. The Selecao went out in the last World Cup in the quarterfinals which set off Dunga's course correction. He will be deemed to have carried it too far.
Full marks to the Oranje who came back - Wesley Sneijder like he did in the CL finals, stamped his class in this match too. He might consider this as one of his crowning achievements. They meet the winners of the Ghana vs Uruguay match. Europe 1, South America 0.
Speed dial Bob Bradley, Bert Van Marwijk!
The Netherlands can look to the USA to fight back. But they have been very slow getting into their stride. They are still playing their lateral passing game. It's all Brazil with Kaka just getting denied by a superb save of Martin Stekelenberg.
Very quick work down the flanks as Dani Alves switches from the left back to the right. Michel Bastos has been bombing up and down the left and Robinho has proven the punch down the center.
El Fenomeno scores. Patrick Kluiwert ties. The PKs begin at the end of extra time. The Brazilians are perfect but the Dutch are off. Philip Cocu and Ronald De Boer have their efforts saved by Claudio Taffarel. Brazil are through to the finals against France.
This match could be headed the same way. We have seen some dour defensive intensity on both sides.
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Michel Bastos, Dani Alves, Felipe Melo, Silva, Kaka, Robinho, Luis Fabiano.
Subs: Gomes, Luisao, Thiago Silva, Gilberto, Josue, Julio Baptista, Kleberson, Nilmar, Grafite, Doni.
The combustible Felipe Melo in for the more cool, calculating Elano. Always in danger of a booking.
Netherlands: Stekelenburg, Van Der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst, Van Bommel, De Jong, Robben, Sneijder, Kuyt, van Persie.
Subs: Vorm, Boulahrouz, Ooijer, De Zeeuw, Braafheid, Elia, Schaars, Babel, Afellay, Huntelaar, Van der Vaart, Boschker.
No changes. The Dutch ride into this on a 23 match unbeaten streak. They could do better in the set piece department which should in all rights be a strong suit.
If I were Martin Demichelis - it would be prudent to zip that lip.
"Seeing the way Terry played against Germany, if I was Terry I wouldn't be able to go back to my country," said Demichelis.
The Bayern Munich central defender is going to meet a lot of his team mates in tomorrow's match.
They will recall that Demichelis is not the soundest of defenders.
- His mistake on the ball allowed South Korea's Lee Chong-Yong to score a goal. It did not prove expensive as they won easily, 4-1 but Germany is far more lethal on attack.
- Demichelis was also found wanting in the CL finals against countryman Diego Milito who scored a brace to give Inter the title. The first goal came when Milito held off Martin Demichelis to flick it on to Wesley Sneijder.
The Argentine forward then turned and left his compatriot on the wrong side of goal before taking Sneijder's return pass and exploiting the gap behind Demichelis to clip the ball over Hans Jorg Butt in the German goal.
Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski, Mesut Oezil, and Thomas Mueller are of different quality and the Germans have rolled that tape on Demichelis many times.
Walter Samuel remains an injury concern which could mean Nicolas Otamendi will be Demichelis's partner in the backfield. Otamendi had a decent game against Mexico but his inexperience could be exploited.
City can really hold onto the ball now.
Yaya Toure signed up on a £28m fee from Barca - joins Gareth Barry, Nigel De Jong, Patrick Vieira, and Vincent Kompany in City's growing stable of defensive midfielders.
Remember how it used to be City didn't see a striker they didn't like. There are still eight with Jo, Felipe Caicedo, and Valeri Bojinov out on loan spells. It's a different season and a different player they are going after.
City is swinging from the trees in the transfer market. Jerome Boateng, David Silva, and now Yaya Toure. That is about £70m already in fees.
Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli could be the next big name.
As expected the Nigerian Football Federation and therefore all their teams, not just the Super Eagles stands on the brink of being suspended.
The ultimatum was given in response to Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president's decision to suspend the Super Eagles from international participation in order to "rebuild the team."
FIFA communications director Nicolas Maingot told a media briefing: "FIFA have sent a letter to the Nigeria Football Federation indicating that the government of Nigeria has until Monday at 6pm to cancel its direction to withdraw Nigeria's participation from all FIFA and CAF competitions for the next two years."
He added: "Failure to do so will lead to the suspension of the NFF."
Why Jonathan Goodluck's decision, bizarre and arbitrary: is also reactionary and counterproductive >>
"I would never pay for a ticket to watch the matches of this Brazilian team. Where has the Brazil team we all know disappeared to in this World Cup?"
Where have you been, Johan? Dunga has been the coach for the last four years and this is no big secret.
My grandfather said in his day football was excellent."
'My father said that, I say that and I am sure my son and my grandson are going to say exactly the same, that in their day the football was very good, that the players could dribble magnificently, they could head magnificently.
'We know world-class players are always outstanding at any time.'
Dunga in essence told the Dutch legend that he really did not have to watch them.
What Brazil desires is one more World Cup title and nothing short of that is going to satisfy the CBF and the team's fans. The more discerning may quibble but returning home empty handed is not an option- ask Carlos Alberto Parreira and Tele Santana.
Germany seems to have taken the lead in sending out some hefty zingers against the Argentinians ahead of the Saturday semi-final. This will be a match with plenty of testosterone.
Philip Lahm, the captain accused them of being bad losers characterizing it as a South American trait which should put him on the dock with not just Argentina but Brazil and Paraguay. Bastian Schweinsteiger called them "disrespectful."
Both were part of a German squad that sent the Argentinians packing in the 2006 World Cup in the quarterfinals after winning a penalty shootout. The match ended in a brawl with fisticuffs exchanged.
The English will be watching from the sidelines on Saturday. This could be the second best thing after an England vs Argentina match up.
10+ minutes highlights of the 1974 World Cup match between Netherlands and Brazil.
Clockwork Orange showing off "total football" by Johan Cruyff, Rob Rensenbrink, Ruud Krol, and Arie Haan. Goals by Johan Neeskens and Cruyff overcome a scrappy Brazilian team that resorted to physical intimidation. The victory put the Oranje into the final which they lost to Gerd Mueller and the Germans.
The 1974 and 1978 Dutch teams played beautiful, enthralling, but tragic football. Part of why the world loves Dutch football and considers it sacred yet fragile.
Not the finest 90 minutes for the Selecao who seemed to be suffering from the hangover of the 1970 World Cup- the team considered by many as the finest football team in all history. No Pele, no Clodoaldo, no Tostao, no Gerson, and no Julio Cesar. Only Roberto Rivelino and Jairzinho carried the torch in 1974.
Two pairs of players are looking for a big game tomorrow to catapult their names into history- Robinho vs Robben and Kaka vs Sneijder.
Both teams have been patient in this World Cup. Their flair players have had some shining moments but for the most part both teams have employed one gear preferring to look solid rather than spectacular. They have soaked up pressure and relied on the counterattack.
Brazil employed that to perfection against a Chilean midfield that dominated possession in the second half but left plenty of gaps for Kaka and Ramires to expose which Luis Fabiano and Robinho punished. The same could be said about Slovakia who proved tough when they had the ball but were unable to stop Robben and Sneijder.
These two teams over the years have become conservative, Netherlands more so than Brazil. So what do we look for?
Shots on goal: A gamechanging stat
The two team approaches look similar but there are key areas of differences. The Netherlands is more sparing in its attack but makes up for it with its efficiency. They have had fewer forays compared to Brazil, in fact 14 less. This has resulted in 58 shots attempted out of which 29 have been on target. 7 goals have resulted.
The Brazilians have on the other hand have been more scattershot (only Argentina is ahead) - 74 times out of which 27 have been on target. These have netted 8 goals.
The Selecao will try and keep up that high volume of shots to overcome Marten Stekelenberg for that decisive goal. There is a reason why they have to do this.
The Brazilians have been lethal at scoring goals in the penalty area whereas the Netherlands use the long range threat of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben for a more varied look. The deeper the Netherlands push out the Brazilians, the better the chances of low percentage shots.
Speed of attack: Pushing up the ball
The high volume Brazilian attack rely on quickness on the flanks from Michel Bastos and Maicon to step up the counterattacking tempo. They are one of the fastest teams in the World Cup whereas the Oranje are actually one of the slowest along with Spain.
This is because the Netherlands under Bert van Marwijk is even more conservative than Brazil under Dunga. They only release the ball to Robben or Van Persie after plenty of lateral movement. There are very few solo runs. Van Marwijk has relied on the services of Eljero Elia on the left to introduce that element of speed in the second half. With the return of Robben one can expect more alacrity on the right.
Asymmetrical flanks: Recruitment of players
With Rafael Van Der Vaart deputizing in place of Arjen Robben, the attack dragged out to the left. Again with the introduction of Eljero Elia as a substitute for Van Der Vaart, this territorial imbalance was maintained. Wesley Sneijder preferring to operate in a more central position just inside Van Der Vaart. With Robben, there should be more attacking symmetry which should make the Dutch less predictable and Maicon's job easier.
The Brazilians are center-right heavy. With Elano, Kaka, Maicon, and Dani Alves operating on an overlapping scale down the right, the attack emanates with fairly uniform predictability down this flank. Robinho likes to fly down straight as an arrow down the center from deeper areas. Only Michel Bastos gives some countervail to the left. This imbalance should make Giovanni Von Bronckhorst and Joris Mathijsen's life quite interesting but it could also give occasion to Mark Von Bommel and Nigel De Jong to rush to their aid with regularity.
Would Marwijk like to gamble shifting a fuller complement of "man markers" on the right and to the center might stifle the attack and take his chances with Bastos? Most of the passes to Robinho come from the right- center midfield (~ 75%). Luis Fabiano gets about half from that source with another quarter coming from Robinho.
Areas of improvement:
The Dutch might be a bit disappointed with their set pieces. Free kicks and corners have not proven to be a factor. Wesley Sneijder, Robin Van Persie, and Arjen Robben should be able to boost that department.
The Brazilians have been quite resolute in defense overall but they do give up a lot of tackles. This was quite clear in the matches against Ivory Coast and Chile. The Elephants were able to come back in the match late in the second half and Chile were bossing the ball around after winning the 50-50s.
With Xavi and Iniesta in full flow in the World Cup, minutes have been hard to come by for Cesc Fabregas.
Two appearances off the bench- substituting Xavi in the 66th minute of the Honduras match and then coming on for the ineffective Fernando Torres in the 55th minute against Chile. That is it.
Against Honduras Iniesta was not available through injury. One would have thought Vicente Del Bosque would have brought in an attack minded midfielder like Fabregas who is no slouch when it comes to scoring. Instead he went in for Jesus Navas for this must win match.
A situation that will mirror itself at Barca.
Pep Guardiola who has been significantly silent through this whole Fabregas saga has a number of options of the bench should Xavi or Iniesta be unavailable. He used them quite effectively to win the Liga as Iniesta remained away frequently with lots of niggling injuries.
Fabregas seems to have finally seen the light.
"I haven't said that I will definitely leave Arsenal. Everything is possible. Now I have my head and my focus on the World Cup.
"I am very proud to be captain of Arsenal and I love the club and have respect for them. It gave me such pride to be made captain."
Does not sound like the words of a player who is in a hurry to leave. We will have him back at the Emirates this season. Meanwhile Goal.com is frothing about Mesut Oezil. That post has Arsenal fighting Barca for Oezil's services. That can't make Fabregas happy at all- even though its just another silly traffic driver.
So far Maradona hasn't done a bad job of making his critics feel that he didn't exactly live down to their expectations.
His latest critic however is not human being but Paul the Octopus.
Paul has correctly predicted the winner of four games that Germany has played so far - namely Germany in each case.
He has gone with his usual choice for the game against Argentina.
So now Maradona,apart from having to worry about technically inadequate referrees,also has to worry about a clairvoyant smart aleck octopus....!
The move to bring Lars Lagerback on board to coach the Super Eagles did not pan out as planned as the team bombed out in the group stage.
So what does Nigerian president, Jonathan Goodluck do? He reportedly suspends the Super Eagles from international competition for two years.
"President Goodluck Jonathan has directed that Nigeria withdraws from international competition for two years to enable the country to put its house in order."
There is also a move afoot to extend Lars Lagerback's contract to five years enabling him to raise a new team in the meantime.
Both are wrong headed moves.
If this is true and FIFA is examining this seriously - they have zero tolerance in government interference into the affairs of the football association. Usually if there are legitimate grounds, the national associations are punished by having the national team suspended. Such is the case in the past with Kenya, Iran, Greece, and Poland. Each time these strong arm tactics have worked- the government has backed off.
FIFA warned Nikolas Sarkozy that France risks suspension if the government goes ahead with an investigation into the FFF after Les Bleus comedy of errors.
The opposite is true in Nigeria's case - the Nigerian president wants the Super Eagles out of international competition for two years, ostensibly for the purposes of rebuilding. A FIFA ban will suit him just fine- this will be no punishment. But a ban can exclude them for much longer and extend to all teams that come under the FIFA umbrella.
Nigeria's inability to transfer the immense talent they have on paper into tangible results is not going to be served by a vague sense of "rebuilding".
Their youth players are excellent - the U17 team reached the finals of the 2009 World Cup. A FIFA ban will punish them too. The youth teams are the crucible of Nigerian talent- they have entered six finals and won three. Some of the class of the 2007 U17 team that won against Spain are already coming into their own with the Super Eagles, for e.g., Lukman Haruna. Rebuilding involves their continued participation in such competitions.
John Obi Mikel, Taye Taiwo, Chinedu Obasi, and Sani Kaita are standouts from the 2005 Golden Eagles team that were runners up to Argentina in the U20 World Cup. They are now mainstays in the Super Eagles.
In a desire to punish the Super Eagles, Jonathan Goodluck is shooting himself in the foot by actually cutting of future Nigerian participation essential to the Super Eagles success- at the U17, U20, and U21 levels.
The opposite debate is occurring in England where the dearth of youth talent is being blamed by Fabio Capello in his tunnel vision of including players who looked old and worn out. They could have done with Germany's perky elixir of youth.
Nigeria should be thankful for the plenitude of youthful talent at their disposal.
Does Nigeria really believe that Lars Lagerback is the coach to translate all the talent to national team success? His resume boasts four consecutive World Cup appearances for Sweden but the Nigerians really don't want that, do they? They are past the "we made it to the World Cup" stage. Since 1994 they have qualified for every World Cup except the one in Germany four years ago. Another foreign journeyman coach who is paid wads of money to under perform is not the answer.
Look at the way Shaibu Amodu gets treated every time he takes Nigeria to the brink. Shunted out after taking them to the World Cup in 2002 and 2010. Each time he was ill served by his replacement. Under Faustus Onigbende, Nigeria did not win one match in the 2002 World Cup dismissal from further participation. Lars Lagerback did not accomplish any better this time around losing to Argentina, Greece, and drawing South Korea in a match that they should have won.
Nigeria should rebuild without resorting to these draconian sanctions on the Super Eagles. The NFA should install a homegrown coach and cast aside this easy come, easy go attitude that has proven counterproductive to national team success.
The national association should clean house - cast aside the regionalism, the politicking for votes, and the cushy payoffs that have given so many voices but no stability. That used to be Ghana's problem in the past - but they have done much better in rebuilding a strong national character. When you mean business, then the overpaid Premiership stars fall in line.